Iambic pentameter is a term that describes a particular rhythm used in verse. Each line of standard iambic pentameter is made up 5 feet. Each foot contains a stressed and unstressed syllable.

Have you seen these marks before? Hopefully you've been paying attention in class, and you have. You'll notice that there are 5 groups of the u-like shape and the slash. Each one of these groups is called a foot.

Here's an example:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold (Line 1: Sonnet 73)
This is how you would mark if you were writing it down. The u-shape goes above the unstressed syllables, and the slash goes above stressed syllables.

Sometimes, the iambic pentameter doesn't match. This is not necessarily a mistake on your part-- there are many deliberate alterations to iambic pentameter.
(For this example, please pretend the "u" is an unstressed symbol)

/ / u / u / u
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang (Line 4: Sonnet 73)

Notice how the beginning starts with two stressed syllables. This is called a spondee. Think about why this might be used-- if you heard many lines of regular iambic pentameter, then heard something like this, would it stand out? It's also important to note that there are still 5 feet in this line-- the way the syllables are arranged is just different.
Another kind of iambic pentameter is a trochee: a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable (/ u). Names are almost always made up a stressed and unstressed syllable, so pay attention when a line starts with a name!

Other variations you will encounter include:

- Feminine ending: This is when there is an added unstressed at the end of a line (an example of this is in the speech Cassius gives to Brutus: "'Brutus' and 'Caesar.' What should be in that 'Caesar'" (1.2.142)?)
- Short lines: This is when a line is less than 5 feet of iambic pentameter.
- Shared lines: (do not confuse these with short lines) This is a line of iambic pentameter that is split up between multiple characters. It will look something like this:
[Name]: wordsWORDS wordsWORDS
[Name]: [empty space empty space ]wordsWORDS wordWORDS wordWORDS
Notice how the line still contains 5 feet of iambic pentameter? This kind of line functions as a stage direction; it shows that the line is meant to be read as one line, without a pause, even though it is shared.
- Trimeter: This is a line with three iambic feet

Sometimes, the words you're reading won't fit into any form of iambic pentameter. Most likely, the character is speaking in prose. When a character speaks in prose, they are often of a lower class/status. Characters might speak in both prose and iambic pentameter over the course of the play. Pay extra attention to when this happens, and figure out what it might mean.

Remember guys-- this stuff happens for a REASON. It's great if you're noticing this stuff, but ALWAYS connect it to meaning. Many rhetorical devices are emphasized by strategic uses of iambic pentameter or prose.

rhythm- beat/regular stress pattern
meter-way of measuring the rhythm/pattern
foot- the number of syllables that is repeated
iamb-unstressed then stressed(type of foot)

Hey everyone. This is Jessica Marino. This might be a little bit odd. I left Ms. Davis's class last semester. I'm posting on this wiki.
Allow me to repeat this-- I am not a student in her class, yet I am using the wiki more than you guys are. I am checking the calendar and know more about what you guys do than YOU actually do. I'm visiting the notes page often to learn the stuff Ms. Harris's class doesn't cover. And, obviously I care about it, because I've just spent my time making this post after learning about it from Ms. Davis.
...just something to remember.