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Iambic Pentameter Made Easy: A Guide to Using an Online Converter

Very few online sonnet generators allow you to enter your own words for use in the poem. This is because sonnets use a very rigid structure, making it hard for web developers to incorporate the infinite possibilities that users might input. Although random poetry made up of existing lines usually generates perfect iambic pentameter, the possibilities are fairly limited. Our sonnet generator lets you input your own words and, if we can't make them work in the sonnet format, we access the dictionary to find synonyms that do fit. We have also taken the daring step of letting a computer choose some of the rhymes - this often generates surprising results.

Iambic Pentameter Converter

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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.

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.

This program, when given one of over 1,000 unique words, returns a line of iambic pentameter that rhymes with the given word. The program uses all 152 of Shakespeare's complete sonnets to generate these lines, as sonnets have a strict meter and rhyme scheme. The sonnets, as part of the public domain, are available at

Keep reading aloud. Head over to YouTube. Look up the rhythm of a human heart and pulse, and immerse yourself in the familiar, comforting, sound for a while. Hear the beat. Let it sink in. Return to your poems (or songs!) written in iambic pentameter, and read them aloud once more.

We often follow the same rhythmic structure found in poems written in iambic pentameter, but speaking in 10-syllable lines is slightly harder and more intentional. Iambic pentameter is designed to give you the feel of normal speech, but on a grader scale.

ERIK DIDRIKSEN: I was wondering around the wilderness of the Internet one day, couple of years ago, and came across a Tumblr post. Someone had screenshotted a Twitter account that purportedly takes pop lyrics and turns them into Shakespearean verse, but they weren't doing a terribly good job of it. And someone had posted this on Tumblr and said, "Not in iambic pentameter. Do not accept." And someone responded to it, a gentleman named Johnny from the UK, responded with a perfectly set Shakespearean sonnet version of Macklemore's "Thrift Shop."

DIDRIKSEN: Of course. The Shakespearean sonnet is 14 lines. Each line is in iambic pentameter, which is 10 syllables with a unstressed-stress pattern. So, for instance, Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 begins, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" So if you break that down, "Shall I," that's one. "compare," two. "thee to," three. "a Sum-," four. "-er's day," so that's the full five iambs, which are two syllables each. And then a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.

DIDRIKSEN: There's definitely elements of certain sonnets that I'm very pleased that I get to use as much of the original line as possible because then it makes it recognizable. Certain sonnets almost fit, when you're reading them, you can almost hear the song in your head, because the lyrics are close enough, and the lyrics are already sort of iambic, so as you read them, it sort of flows into it.

To give an example, Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," the third quatrain begins, oh, "never shall I vacate from thy side, nor ever shall I disappoint thee hence." But I always read it as [in a different rhythm], oh, "never shall I vacate from thy side, nor ever shall I disappoint thee hence." And it sort of has the same rhythm; you can sort of put the same rhythm onto it because it very much matches the lyric. You know, the words are a little bit different, but the flow of it remains, because the original lyrics are more iambic.

As to the ghost of Shakespeare, we chose to welcome this phantom rather than banish it, mindful of the historical circumstance that the Elizabethan dramatists first chose iambic pentameter for their own plays in imitation of the Greek and Roman tragedians.

Iambic pentameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of five iambic feet. The word "pentameter " simply means that there are five feet in the line; iambic pentameter is a line comprising five iambs. The term originally applied to the quantitative meter of Classical Greek poetry, in which an iamb consisted of a short syllable followed by a long syllable. The term was adopted to describe the equivalent meter in English poetry, where an iamb refers to an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Iambic rhythms come relatively naturally in English. Iambic pentameter is among the most common metrical forms in English poetry: it is used in many of the major English poetic forms, including blank verse, the heroic couplet, and many of the traditional rhymed stanza forms.

We can notate this is with a 'x' mark representing an unstressed syllable and a '/' mark representing a stressed syllable (for a more detailed discussion see the article on Systems of Scansion). In this notation a line of iambic pentameter would look like this:

Although strictly speaking, iambic pentameter refers to five iambs in a row (as above), in practice, poets vary their iambic pentameter a great deal, while maintaining the iamb as the most common foot. There are some conventions to these variations, however. Iambic pentameter must always contain only five feet, and the second foot is almost always an iamb. The first foot, on the other hand, is the most likely to change, often in a trochaic inversion. Another common departure from standard iambic pentameter is the addition of a final unstressed syllable, which creates a weak or feminine ending . One of Shakespeare's most famous lines of iambic pentameter has a weak ending:

Donne uses a trochaic inversion (DUM da instead of da DUM) in the first foot of the first line to stress the key verb, "batter", and then sets up a clear iambic pattern with the rest of the line (da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM). In lines 2 and 4 he uses spondees in the third foot to slow down the rhythm as he lists monosyllabic verbs. The parallel rhythm and grammar of these lines highlights the comparison Donne sets up between what God does to him "as yet" (knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend"), and what he asks God to do ("break, blow, burn and make me new"). Donne also uses enjambment between lines 3 and 4 to speed up the flow as he builds to his desire to be made new. To further the quickening effect of the enjambment, Donne puts an extra syllable in the final foot of the line (this can be read as an anapest (dada DUM) or as an elision).

As the examples show, iambic pentameter need not consist entirely of iambs, nor need it have ten syllables. In fact, syllables are not counted at all in English meter, which differentiates it from meters such as hendecasyllable, which are commonly used in Romance languages. Most poets who have a great facility for iambic pentameter frequently vary the rhythm of their poetry as Donne and Shakespeare do in the examples, both to create a more interesting overall rhythm and to highlight important thematic elements. In fact, the skillful variation of iambic pentameter, rather than the consistent use of it, may well be what distinguishes the rhythmic artistry of poets like Donne, Shakespeare, Milton, and the 20th century sonneteer Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Spenser's invention may have been influenced by the Italian form ottava rima, which consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme ABABABCC. This form was used by Spenser's Italian role models Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso.

Another possible influence is rhyme royal, a traditional medieval form used by Geoffrey Chaucer and others, which has seven lines of iambic pentameter that rhyme ABABBCC. More likely, however, is the eight-line ballad stanza with the rhyme scheme ABABBCBC, which Chaucer used in his Monk's Tale. Spenser would have been familiar with this rhyme scheme and simply added a line to the stanza, forming ABABBCBCC.[3]

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