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(pĕntăm`ətər) [Gr.,=measure of five], in prosody, a line to be scanned in five feet (see versificationversification,
principles of metrical practice in poetry. In different literatures poetic form is achieved in various ways; usually, however, a definite and predictable pattern is evident in the language.
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). The third line of Thomas Nashe's "Spring" is in pentameter: "Cold doth / not sting, / the pret / ty birds / do sing." Iambic pentameter, in which each foot contains an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable, is the most common English meter. Chaucer first used it in what was later called rhyme royal, seven iambic pentameters rhyming ababbcc; as Chaucer pronounced a final short e, his pentameters often end in an 11th, unstressed syllable. In his Canterbury Tales the pentameters are disposed in rhyming pairs. The pentameter couplet was used also by his imitators in Scotland, with the important difference that when the final e disappeared from speech the couplet became one of strict pentameters. This, known as the heroic couplet, became important in the 17th and 18th cent., notably in the hands of Dryden and Pope.
True wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.
Pope, "Essay on Criticism"
Blank verse, a succession of unrhymed iambic pentameters, is primarily an English form and has been used in the loftiest epic and dramatic verse from Shakespeare and Milton to the present.
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Shakespeare, The Tempest, iv:1
The sonnetsonnet,
poem of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter, restricted to a definite rhyme scheme. There are two prominent types: the Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet, composed of an octave and a sestet (rhyming abbaabba cdecde
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 is one of the most familiar and successful uses of iambic pentameter in English poetry.



in ancient prosody, a dactylic line formed by doubling the first hemistich of a hexameter; each of the two hemistichs consists of two and a half dactylic feet. The hemi-stichs are divided by a caesura, and the dactyls may be replaced by spondees only in the first hemistich. The metric scheme is Pentameter.

The pentameter was used only in alternation with the hexameter, to form the elegaic couplet; in this form it was the basic meter of ancient elegies and epigrams. An example of a tonic rendition of an elegaic couplet whose second line is a pentameter follows (from a poem by A. S. Pushkin):

Slýshu umólknuvshii zvúk bozhéstvennoi éllinskoi réchi,

Stártsa velíkogo tén’ chúiu smushchë́nnoi dushói.


1. a verse line consisting of five metrical feet
2. (in classical prosody) a verse line consisting of two dactyls, one stressed syllable, two dactyls, and a final stressed syllable
3. designating a verse line consisting of five metrical feet
References in periodicals archive ?
The second of the two lines is a normative iambic pentameter line, with five iambic feet.
In the iambic pentameter line under discussion here the syllable sequence is analyzed into pairs (binary feet) by the Iterative Footing rule written out in full in (7) which inserts right parentheses among the asterisks of gridline 0.
In Rossetti's iambic pentameter line under discussion the head of the grid-line 0 foot is its right-most unit (asterisk) and, as shown in (9) it is this unit that is projected onto gridline 1.
It is the fact that rhythm and meter are related only by (16) and (17) which is the source of the freedom in the iambic pentameter line.
A foot-substitution approach takes the iambic pentameter to be normatively five iambs in sequence.
The procedure of iterative footing is different here in several respects from that of the iambic pentameter discussed in section 2 (compare rule (10)).
Finch's key insight is that iambic pentameter, which carries such a heavy baggage of patriarchal institutions in education and the high tradition of English poetic diction, can best be studied at the moment of early free verse i English, when the grip of pentameter on verse was becoming unclenched.
One can study the metrical code of the pentameter best, in fact, in verse which is not itself pentameter-based.
Alfred Prufrock" for its horrifying descent into the clutches of the pentameter at the end, a descent which stifles the speaker's imagination: "I do not think that they will sing to me.
SQUALOR, at the Pentameters Theatre, London, August 10 to September 4.