ENG 2DO – Romeo and Juliet
Iambic Pentameter & Reading / Reciting Shakespeare
An iambic foot is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. The rhythm can be
A line of iambic pentameter is five iambic feet in a row:
1 2 3 4 5
Da DUM Da DUM Da DUM Da DUM Da DUM
˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ / ˘ /
But Soft! What light Yon- der win- dow
Other important things to consider when reading Shakespeare:
Contractions – remember that contractions are words that have been combined by adding an
apostrophe, or they indicate possession. (Can’t = Can not, I’ll = I will, Isn’t = Is not, etc)
Shakespeare does the same thing in his writing. He often shortened words with contractions so
that they would fit into the rhythm pattern of the phrase. Words with two syllables can become
words with one syllable.
Some examples of how the apostrophe is used in place of letters:
o’er = over ‘tis = it is e’en = even ne’er = never
learn’d = learned walk’d = walked
When you see a changed word with an apostrophe, pronounce it as one syllable (ie. ‘tis,
learn’d). When you see verbs with the “ed” still in place, prounce these as two syllables (ie.
Learned = Learn-ed).
Imagery – Shakespeare used words to paint pictures for his audiences. The descriptive language
should be emphasized with tone as it brings the play to life. These images often occur through
metaphor and simile. One of the best scenes for this is the infamous balcony scene in Act II,
Dramatic irony – another time to emphasize tone is when the words being spoken mean one
thing for the character speaking them and something different altogether for the character
doing the listening. Dramatic irony is when the audience or characters are aware of events or
meanings that other characters may not be aware of.
Puns – One of Shakespeare’s favourite literary devices. These are essentially jokes with words
to convey multiple meanings. (Sole/soul, bound/bound). This is often seen when Romeo is
joking around with his friends. It is a common form of entertainment of theirs to show their wit
in this manner.
Malapropisms – these are words which are pronounced incorrectly for comedic effect. Usually
these misspoken words are an indicator of lower-class characters trying to sound educated,
when in fact they are only demonstrating their ignorance and stupidity.
Oxymorons – (jumbo shrimp) – these are phrases in which opposites are contrasted to express
paradox. Some examples from the play “a feather of lead”, “Oh loving hate”
With a partner, read the following poem out loud with attention to iambic pentameter (try to
stress the right syllables).
Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is't not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
And my next self thou harder hast engross'd:
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken;
A torment thrice threefold thus to be cross'd.
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward,
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigor in my gaol:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.