Iambic Pentameter

In today’s lesson we explored the notion of meter.

We discovered that there is an underlying rhythm to a great deal of Shakespeare’s drama. A quick gallop around the room on our virtual Iambic horses lead us to discover that the “unstress/stress” pattern can be applied to the whole of the prologue to Romeo and Juliet. In future we will examine the presence of this meter and what effect it may have in great detail – but currently it is simply a pleasure to note its secret presence underneath English speaking patterns. Here is the Prologue that we scanned:



Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.

The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,

And the continuance of their parents’ rage,

Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,

Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;

The which if you with patient ears attend,

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

And if you are interested in all the different forms of meter and their names, this wikipedia article provides some excellent detail (note that the word ‘iamb’ comes from the original Greek!)


Today’s board capture:

Iambic Pentameter in the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet

Author: Christopher Waugh

“Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.” (Katherine Mansfield)

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *