Skip to main content


Iambic pentameter is the meter in which Shakespeare wrote the vast majority of his poetical works. Throughout his career, he deviated from this rigid meter in ways which developed characters, gave cues to actors, and directly engaged the audience. Statistical analysis of meter reveals that Shakespeare’s works become less rigidly metrical over time. The statistical approach to meter focuses on the difference between the expected and actual rhythms of a line. This is in contrast to the generative approach, which dictates the full scope of acceptable lines of verse. Generative metrics overlooks the author’s capability to purposefully deviate from expectation, making it a less effective method of analysis than a statistical approach, though it has long dominated the study of English metrics. At times, Shakespeare leaves partial lines to indicate a pause in the reading. Close metrical observation is vital to appreciating the reflection and humanity offered up in these pauses. Conversely, at times he has characters share what is effectively one line of verse to indicate their relationship. Shakespeare’s willingness to break from meter allows for a more natural flow of dialogue, which fits with the general trend of literature around his time becoming less strictly metrical. Ultimately, though a linguistic approach to meter is helpful for treating the more theoretical aspects of meter, it must also be evaluated through an artistic lens to fully analyze the rhetoric of Shakespeare. A blending of the two is the ideal approach for analyzing Shakespeare as well as other works in verse.


This is a metadata-only record.



  • Subject
    • English

  • Institution
    • Dahlonega

  • Event location
    • VMR 1 Enter Guest PIN 2001

  • Event date
    • 17 April 2020

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Brian J. Corrigan