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How to Write Blank Verse in the Iambic Pentameter


Blank verse in iambic pentameter is a pattern of poetry that originated and grew in popularity in Renaissance Italy. Shakespeare commonly used this pattern in his plays. Blank verse is poetry that does not contain a rhyme scheme. "Iambic" refers to the rhythmic pattern of "unstressed-stressed" syllables. The following pattern denotes one unit of iambic pattern, called an "iamb," or "foot": U-. "U" represents the first syllable, which is unstressed, while "-" refers to a stressed syllable, such as in the word "today," where a speaker normally rushes "to" and emphasizes "day." Five "feet" of iambs is called "pentameter": U-/U-/U-/U-/U-/. Different writers may find different methods of crafting poetry in iambic pentameter more helpful.

Write a line of poetry with ten syllables. Modify words and word order to produce an unstressed-stressed rhythm pattern, so that every other syllable, beginning with the second syllable, reads with stress.

Convert an old poem that you have written before, or a poem by a published author, to iambic pentameter. Change the lines to contain ten syllables each that follow the iambic pattern.

Compose a poem in iambic pentameter right from the start. On a piece of paper, copy the iambic pentameter pattern. Leave spaces in between the stressed and unstressed symbols. Underneath write the first line of your poem, composing stressed words underneath stressed symbols and unstressed words under unstressed symbols, until you have written ten syllables. This forces you to structure your lines according to the rhythmic pattern as you write. Repeat this step for every line.

Tips
  • Try saying words out loud to determine which syllables require stress.
  • Read poems by William Shakespeare, John Milton, Christopher Marlowe and Robert Frost out loud to get a feel for how iambic pentameter in blank verse sounds.
Warning
  • Writing in iambic pentameter is difficult and takes practice. Many published poets today do not attempt iambic pentameter.
About the Author

Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.

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