Tag Archives: Sonnets

Sonnets, Shakespeare and Iambic Pentameter

While studying the poetry of  Shakespeare, we are becoming familiar with the sonnet form. At the moment we are focussing on one of the most famous love poems of all time: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 often referred to by its first line, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” It is a beautiful poem written to the Fair Youth dealing with the loveliness of the beloved, the effect time has on all and the power of poetry to immortalise the beloved. This is captured n 14 lines written in iambic pentameter and following a strict rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg.

Let’s refresh ourselves on what iambic pentameter is. In simple terms it is a line of verse with ten syllables grouped into pairs. Each pair of syllables has one soft and one strong beat.  Each pair is called an IAMB and there FIVE pairs – that’s why each line of 5 pairs is called IAMBIC PENTAMETER.  The rhythm in each line sounds like:

ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM / ba-BUM
Here are some famous lines written in iambic pentameter:
If music be the food of love , play on.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
You’ll notice that each pair of syllables is made up of one unstressed and one stressed beat (ba-BUM).
Here are some good attempts by students at the college of iambic pentameter: Here is Jasper’s quatrain:
“Everyone wants to go out for fun
Wanna see the clouds, trees, and the nice sky
To play golf or take a bath in the sun
Go high above the trees and clouds and fly!”
Super work Jasper and great rhyme scheme!
Dennis also wrote a quatrain, while Jaime went full steam ahead and wrote an entire sonnet in iambic pentameter following the correct rhyme scheme!
Dennis’s Quatrain

Jaime’s Sonnet