Notes on Iambic Pentameter

Iambic Pentameter

pentameter: five feet

foot: one stressed syllable plus one or more unstressed syllables in a repeating pattern

iambic: an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable: ˘ ´


Iambic Words

˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´
belief arise defend prepare conceive

Iambic Pentameter Lines

We mourn in black, why mourn we not in blood? (1 Henry VI 1.1.17)

˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´
We mourn in black why mourn we not in blood?

My child is yet a stranger in the world. (Romeo & Juliet 1.2.8)

˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´
My child is yet a strang er in the world

But soft, methinks I scent the morning air. (Hamlet 1.5.58)

˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´
But soft, methinks I scent the morn ing air

Two Common Iambic Variations

Feminine Ending: The line ends with an extra, unstressed syllable.

Or say ’tis not your seal, not your invention (Twelfth Night 5.1.327)

˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘
Or say ’tis not your seal, not your invention

In night and on the court and guard of safety (Othello 2.3.205)

˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘
In night and on the court and guard of safety

Initial Stressed Syllable: The line begins with a single, stressed syllable followed by an anapestic foot (two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable: ˘ ˘ ´).

Now is the winter of our discontent (Richard III 1.1.1)

´ ˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´
Now is the win ter of our dis content

Veiling an Indian beauty; in a word, (The Merchant of Venice 3.2.99)

´ ˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´
Veil ing an In dian beau ty; in a word,

Page Last Updated: 17 September 2014