PlayShakespeare.com

What is scansion?
A system of scansion is a way to mark the metrical patterns of a line of poetry. In classical poetry, these patterns are based on the different lengths of each vowel sound, and in English poetry, they are based on the different stresses placed on each syllable. In both cases, the meter often has a regular foot.

How do I read scansion marks?
Over the years, many different systems have been established to mark the scansion of a poem. Classical notation uses a macron for long syllables and a breve for short syllables. Now the macron is commonly replaced with an ictus above a long syllable.

What are "feet"?
A "foot" is a collection of two or three syllables. There are different types of feet:

iamb  - A two-syllable foot where an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable.

trochee  - A two-syllable foot where a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed syllable.

pyrrhic  - A two-syllable foot where both syllables are unstressed.

spondee  - A two-syllable foot where both syllables are stressed.

anapest  - A three-syllable foot where the first two syllables are unstressed and the third syllable is stressed.

dactyl  - A three-syllable foot where the first syllable is stressed and the last two syllables are unstressed.

amphibrach  - A three-syllable foot where the first and third syllables are unstressed and the second syllable is stressed.

tribrach  - A three-syllable foot where all three syllables are stressed.

bacchius  - A three-syllable foot where the first syllable is unstressed and the last two syllables are stressed.

antibaccius  - A three-syllable foot where the first two syllables are stressed and the third syllable is unstressed.

cretic  - A three-syllable foot where the first and third syllables are stressed and the second syllable is unstressed.

molossus  - A three-syllable foot where all three syllables are unstressed.


What is "meter"?
Meter defines the number of feet in a single line of poetry. For example:

monometer - One foot
dimeter - Two feet
trimeter - Three feet
tetramter - Four feet
pentameter - Five feet
hexameter - Six feet
heptameter - Seven feet
octameter - Eight feet

So what is "iambic pentameter"?
As you saw in the previous section, "iambic" means to have two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed. Pentameter indicates there are ten syllables in the line. So iambic pentameter means that it is poetry written in a ten-line, alternating stress structure.

What is "rhythm"?
The rhythm of the line is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables over the course of the line or passage. It may be regular or irregular, which usually conveys information about the speaker and their feelings or motivations.


 

 
 
 
Banner


 

Latest Blog Posts