Iambic Pentameter

Let's do a quick review of Shakespeare's technique in writing his plays.

Figurative Language

You might be asking what the relationship is between poetry and Shakespearean plays. The truth is, both are very emotionally charged and are shrouded in mystery. Figurative language is a key component of Shakespeare's works, and as you have been successful in identifying and analyzing how it promotes a poet's theme, you can use the same tools and techniques in your examination of Hamlet.


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Iambic Pentameter

Shakespeare is a master of iambic pentameter, which is a particular rhythm used in metrical lines of poetry, especially in traditional verse and verse drama. Iambic pentameter relates very similarly to one's heartbeat: da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM. Perhaps this is why Shakespeare's sonnets are renowned: they appeal to one's emotions through the rhythm of the words!

More simply put, iambic pentameter is verse (free or blank) with ten syllables per line that are "mostly" arranged as iambic pairs. An iamb is a pair of syllables that go da-DUM (so words like alas, enough, today). Pentameter means five pairs of syllables to a line.

Melissa Grey is forty-one today!

This is a line of iambic pentameter because it goes Me-LISS-a GREY is FOR-ty ONE to-DAY. (da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM).

Let's take a look at the poem "Acquainted With the Night"by Robert Frost. This poem would be considered a sonnet because it has 14 lines with a set rhyme scheme and ending with a rhyming couplet—a pair of rhyming lines. Did you see the use of iambic pentameter in this poem?

  I HAVE been ONE a-QUAIN-ted WITH the NIGHT.
  I HAVE walked OUT in RAIN ?" and BACK in RAIN.
  I HAVE out-WALKED the FUR-thest CI-ty LIGHT.

A skillful poet, such as Shakespeare, can make variations in pattern to emphasize a particular word, as breaks in the rhythm tend to stand out. Along with iambic pentameter, Shakespeare's use of figurative language aids in his skillful weaving of Hamlet: a tragic tale of murder, revenge, incest, and corruption.