Which Line from The Tempest is Written in Iambic Pentameter

Which Line from The Tempest is Written in Iambic Pentameter

Shakespeare’s play The Tempest explores themes of revenge, betrayal, and the power of forgiveness. While the plot and character’s development are key to understanding the play, Shakespeare’s use of verse adds an element of rhythm and structure.

One particular form of verse that Shakespeare often used is iambic pentameter, a pattern of five iambs (or metrical feet) per line. This structure is commonly found in his plays, especially in the speeches of nobles and important characters.

In Act I Scene I of The Tempest, line 55 is a good example of iambic pentameter. The line goes, “All hail, great master! grave sir, hail! I come to answer thy best pleasure.” It has the characteristic ten syllables with a strong emphasis on every other syllable.

Act I Scene II also provides examples of iambic pentameter. In line 35, Prospero says, “My strong imagination sees a crown dropping upon thy head.” And in line 119, Miranda says, “If by your art, my dearest father, you have put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.” Both lines adhere to the same rhythm and structure.

Act IV Scene I, line 55 is another instance of iambic pentameter. Sebastian says, “No, not a soul but felt a fever of the mad and played some tricks of desperation.” Here, the rhythm is repeated in a couplet, ending with a strong beat on the word “desperation.”

These examples show how Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter adds a certain musicality to the lines spoken by the characters in The Tempest. It also helps to distinguish the nobles from the commoners in terms of their speech patterns.

However, it should be noted that not all lines in the play are written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare also uses prose, especially in scenes that involve everyday conversations or the commoners. The play The Tempest ends with a masque, a popular form of entertainment in Shakespeare’s time, which tends to have a more poetic and rhythmic structure.

So, to answer the question of which line from The Tempest is written in iambic pentameter, there are multiple examples throughout the play. However, Act I Scene I Line 55, Act I Scene II Line 35, Act I Scene II Line 119, and Act IV Scene I Line 55 can all be considered as instances where this poetic structure is used.

Explanation of Iambic Pentameter

In “The Tempest,” the use of iambic pentameter serves various purposes, such as emphasizing important ideas and characters, maintaining control over the verse, and distinguishing the play from prose dialogue. It reflects the formal style often associated with noble characters and moments of high seriousness, while other characters, like the commoners, mostly speak in prose.

Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter allows for flexibility in terms of word choice and sentence structure. For example, it can be used to pack more meaning into a smaller space, as in Act I Scene II Line 119: “And make my seated heart knock at my ribs.” Here, the use of iambic pentameter emphasizes the urgency and emotional intensity of Prospero’s revenge plot.

Iambic pentameter also aids in the development of plot and theme throughout the play. Shakespeare uses variations in the meter, such as the use of trochee or a pause at the end of lines, to mark important moments. Act IV Scene I Line 55, for instance, marks a shift in Prospero’s tone and purpose: “I have bedimmed the noontide sun, called forth / The mutinous winds, and ‘twixt the green sea and” – this line is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter, known as blank verse, highlighting Prospero’s control over the elements and the power of his magic.

Overall, iambic pentameter is a fundamental part of Shakespearean theater, providing a rhythm and structure that enhances the poetic and dramatic nature of his plays. By understanding the patterns and origins of iambic pentameter, one can gain a deeper appreciation for the artistry and craftsmanship of Shakespeare’s writing.

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Importance of Identifying Iambic Pentameter in The Tempest

Identifying iambic pentameter and understanding its rhythm is crucial for readers and performers of The Tempest. By recognizing the pattern of iambs in the lines, one can gain insight into the flow and musicality of Shakespeare’s language. This understanding allows for a deeper appreciation of the character’s emotions and intentions, as well as the overall structure and development of the play.

Moreover, iambic pentameter often serves as a tool for Shakespeare to convey meaning and create rhetorical effects. The consistent rhythm of iambic pentameter can emphasize important words or ideas, evoke a sense of stability or order, and create a sense of harmony or balance. It can also be used to create tension and dramatic effect by deviating from the pattern or using it in unexpected ways.

Understanding iambic pentameter in The Tempest is not just an academic exercise but a way to connect with Shakespeare’s language on a deeper level. By recognizing the rhythmic patterns and speech patterns that Shakespeare employs, readers and performers can better appreciate the artistry and beauty of his verse. Moreover, it opens up opportunities for exploration and interpretation, allowing for a richer understanding of the characters, themes, and messages of the play.

Examples of Iambic Pentameter in The Tempest:

  • Act I Scene I Line 55: “Full fathom five thy father lies.”
  • Act I Scene II Line 35: “I fear some other island.”
  • Act I Scene II Line 119: “And my poor fool is hang’d.”
  • Act IV Scene I Line 55: “He shall have every third thought on’t.”

The use of iambic pentameter in these lines not only adds to the musicality of the play but also enhances the meaning and impact of the character’s words. It underscores the emotional depth of the scenes and highlights the contrast between the characters’ intentions and their actions. By paying attention to iambic pentameter, readers and performers can unlock deeper layers of interpretation and discover the intricacy and brilliance of Shakespeare’s writing.

Act I Scene I Line 55

Line 55 is spoken by the character Sebastian and goes as follows:

“What does thou mean?”

This line follows the iambic pentameter pattern, with five sets of stressed and unstressed syllables. In this case, the stressed syllables are indicated with bold font:

  • What does thou mean?”

The iambic pentameter in this line helps to emphasize the words and create a natural rhythm, enhancing the dramatic effect of the dialogue. It also showcases Shakespeare’s skill in using poetic meter to enhance the meaning and delivery of the lines.

The use of iambic pentameter in “The Tempest” and other Shakespearean plays is a testament to the development of the English language and the artistry of Shakespeare’s writing. It reflects the conversational origins of the language and demonstrates how speech patterns can be crafted into poetic verse. This adds depth and complexity to the themes and characters of the play, as well as making it more engaging and enjoyable for the audience.

Description of the Line

Line Description
Act I Scene II Line 119 How lush and lusty the grass looks, how green!

This line follows the iambic pentameter pattern, which consists of five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables. Each pair, known as an iamb, is made up of one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. In this line, there are five iambs in total:

HOW lush AND lusTY the GRASS looks, HOW green!

Understanding and recognizing the use of iambic pentameter in Shakespeare’s plays can enhance your appreciation for the artistry and control he had over language and rhythm. By studying examples like this line from The Tempest, you can delve deeper into the origins of this poetic structure and its significance in shaping the plot, themes, and character’s speech.

Interpretation of the Line

This LINE is FROM the TEM|pest

By using this rhythmic structure, Shakespeare created a blank verse that allowed for flexibility in the development of characters, plot, and themes. It is often used to convey strong emotions, control the pacing of scenes, and provide a heartbeat-like rhythm to the theater experience. The use of iambic pentameter is not limited to high-ranking characters like Prospero; it is also used by commoners and other characters.

Shakespeare’s choice to write in iambic pentameter in “The Tempest” serves to underscore the magical and otherworldly nature of the play. The rhythmic structure of the verse, combined with the rich language and imagery, tends to put the audience in a receptive and enchanting state. It is through this rhythm and sound that Shakespeare’s artistry works its magic, drawing the audience into a world of betrayal, power, and redemption.

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As for the line itself, “This line is from The Tempest,” it doesn’t have a specific interpretation within the context of the play. It serves as a meta-reference, reminding the audience that they are watching a play and inviting them to engage with the themes and questions that the play raises. It is a line that breaks the fourth wall and calls attention to the artifice of the theater, while also inviting the audience to reflect on their own understanding of Shakespeare’s works and the subject matter of “The Tempest” itself.

Examples of Iambic Pentameter in “The Tempest”

Throughout “The Tempest,” Shakespeare employs iambic pentameter in both verse and prose speech. Here are a couple of examples:


When I WAKE,/I cry to DREAM/aGAN

(Act II, Scene I, Line 255)



(As I FORtiED them)/are MELT/ED inTO AIR

(Act IV, Scene I, Lines 153-154)

These examples showcase the consistent use of iambic pentameter in “The Tempest,” highlighting Shakespeare’s skill in crafting rhythmic and poetic dialogue that can captivate and resonate with audiences even after centuries.

Act I Scene II Line 35

The line in question, “What? And not servant to Master Cloten?” is a perfect example of iambic pentameter. It consists of five iambs, with the stress falling on the second syllable of each iamb: “What?” (unstressed, stressed), “And not” (unstressed, stressed), “ser-vant” (unstressed, stressed), “to Mas-ter” (unstressed, stressed), and “Clo-ten?” (unstressed, stressed). The iambic pentameter pattern gives the line a rhythmic quality, almost like a heartbeat, and helps to emphasize Sebastian’s questioning tone and disbelief.

This particular line also reveals an important theme in the play, which is the ill-treatment and disrespect towards characters of lower status. Sebastian’s question implies a sense of astonishment that someone of his own stature would serve as a servant to another noble. This theme of class distinction and the abuse of power by the nobility is a major subject explored throughout the play.

Description of the Line

Origins of Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter has its roots in English poetry and drama, and it was a popular meter used by nobles and commoners alike. The rhythm and structure of iambic pentameter mimic the natural patterns of everyday speech in a way that is pleasing to the ear and lends itself well to both comedic and tragic themes.

The Line’s Structure and Beat

In the line “Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground,” we can observe the iambic pattern. The stressed syllables “Now,” “give,” “thou,” “sand,” and “ground” provide a strong beat, while the unstressed syllables “would,” “I,” “a,” “fur-,” “of,” “for,” “an,” “bar-,” and “ren” contribute to the rhythm of the line.

The Antithesis in the Line

The line also features an antithesis, a rhetorical device that presents contrasting ideas. In this case, the contrast is between the vastness of the sea and the barrenness of the land. Prospero expresses his desire to trade his current circumstances on the island for a small piece of unproductive land, demonstrating his longing for control and a change in his situation.

Explanation of the Line’s Meaning

Prospero, who has the power of magic, is the character who speaks this line. He is frustrated with his current situation and longs for a different environment. The line expresses his discontent with the island and his desire to have control over a piece of land, even if it is unproductive. It reflects both his emotional state and the theme of power and control that runs throughout the play.

Context and Theme of The Tempest

The Tempest is Shakespeare’s last play and is widely believed to be one of his greatest works. The plot revolves around Prospero, who uses magic to create a tempest that brings his enemies to the island where he resides. The play explores themes of revenge, forgiveness, and the struggle for power. The line in question is part of Prospero’s soliloquy early in the play, where he reflects on his past and plans for his future.


What is iambic pentameter?

Iambic pentameter is a rhythmic pattern in poetry that consists of five sets of two beats, with each set containing one unstressed beat followed by one stressed beat.

Which line from The Tempest is written in iambic pentameter?

Act I Scene II Line 119 in The Tempest is written in iambic pentameter.

Can you tell me more about iambic pentameter?

Iambic pentameter is a common poetic meter in English literature. It is often used in sonnets and plays, including the works of William Shakespeare. The rhythm of iambic pentameter resembles a heartbeat, with one soft beat followed by one strong beat, repeated five times in a line of verse.

What is the rhythm of iambic pentameter?

The rhythm of iambic pentameter is like a heartbeat, with one soft beat (unstressed syllable) followed by one strong beat (stressed syllable), repeated five times in a line of verse.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.