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Examples of Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter refers to a certain kind of line of poetry, and has to do with the number of syllables in the line and the emphasis placed on those syllables. Many of Shakespeare’s works are often used as great examples of iambic pentameter.

Understanding Iambic Pentameter

When we speak, our syllables are either stressed (stronger emphasis) or unstressed (weaker emphasis). For example, the word remark consists of two syllables. “Re” is the unstressed syllable, with a weaker emphasis, while “mark” is stressed, with a stronger emphasis.
In poetry, a group of two or three syllables is referred to as a foot. A specific type of foot is an iamb. A foot is an iamb if it consists of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, so the word remark is an iamb.
Pent means five, so a line of iambic pentameter consists of five iambs – five sets of unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables.

Using Iambic Pentameter in Poetry and Verse

Some examples of iambic pentameter include:

  • But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
  • It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
  • Her vestal livery is but sick and green
  • And none but fools do wear it; cast it off. (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
  • And I do love thee: therefore, go with me;
  • I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee,
  • And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep,
  • And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep; (Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • Now is the winter of our discontent
  • Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
  • And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
  • In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.  (Shakespeare, Richard III)
  • Henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland
  • In such an honour named. What’s more to do,
  • Which would be planted newly with the time,
  • As calling home our exiled friends abroad
  • That fled the snares of watchful tyranny;
  • Producing forth the cruel ministers
  • Of this dead butcher and his fiend-like queen,
  • Who, as ’tis thought, by self and violent hands
  • Took off her life; this, and what needful else
  • That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace,
  • We will perform in measure, time and place:
  • So, thanks to all at once and to each one,
  • Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone. (Shakespeare, Macbeth)
  • That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
  • Be not her maid, since she is envious; (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
  • O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
  • Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
  • Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
  • His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God! (Shakespeare, Hamlet)
  • Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
  • Who is already sick and pale with grief, (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
  • If music be the food of love, play on;
  • Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
  • The appetite may sicken, and so die.
  • That strain again! it had a dying fall:
  • O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
  • That breathes upon a bank of violets,
  • Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
  • ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before. (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)
  • Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
  • The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
  • And bathed every veyne in swich licour
  • Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
  • Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
  • Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
  • Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
  • Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
  • And smale foweles maken melodye,
  • That slepen al the nyght with open ye
  • (so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
  • Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
  • And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
  • To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
  • And specially from every shires ende
  • Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
  • The hooly blisful martir for to seke
  • That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke. (Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales)
  • Hello, my friend. What are you doing here?
  • If you would put the key inside the lock
  • Can you come over here to eat tonight?
  • O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
  • That, notwithstanding thy capacity
  • Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
  • Of what validity and pitch soe’er,
  • But falls into abatement and low price,
  • Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
  • That it alone is high fantastical.  (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)
  • Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
  • Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
  • Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
  • And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: (Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII)
  • Batter my heart three-personed God, for you
  • as yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend.
  • That I may rise and stand o’erthrow me and bend
  • Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new. (John Donne, Holy Sonnet XIV)
  • Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
  • Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
  • Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
  • With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
  • Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
  • Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
  • Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
  • That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
  • In the beginning how the heavens and earth
  • Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill
  • Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
  • Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
  • Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,
  • That with no middle flight intends to soar. (John Milton, Paradise Lost)

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