I’m writing a new short script for a theater company that’s looking for classically written plays. My approach is to rewrite Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night into a truncated, eight page (guideline length) play that hits on all the main plot points from the original work in an updated setting but is still written with elevated, classical language. I’m attempting this by writing the play in iambic pentameter. This means that the dialogue is written in verse with each line containing ten syllables. Plays were written this way in the time of Shakespeare to make the dialogue easier to memorize for the actors because illiteracy was still high in those days, and the playwright was the only person with a written copy of the script.
Well iambic pentameter may have made it easier for the actors, but not for the playwright. Writing in this way is a pain. Instead of writing freely like I normally do I have to write haltingly and overcautiously. It’s like trying to walk in shoes with the laces tied to each other.
It’s also altering the way in which
I write, counting syllables instead of
Focusing on the aesthetics and
The clarity of the language to get
Across my meaning and expression though
It may split sentences and thoughts in an
Unnatural way, and it has o’er use
Of contractions to maintain archaic
Syllable pattern. When I’m done with this
Writing experiment I’ll hopefully
Be able to return to prose writing
Instead of this jagged scribbling and
Tedious, cumbersome thought processing.
Writing in this manner is a prison
Sentence with no parole until I am
Done writing this play, and then I’ll be free!
©️2023 Robert Kirkendall
2 thoughts on “Attempting Iambic Pentameter”
I applaud your effort to work in this archaic format. I am (not a) bic impressed with the confines of such structured torture. Maybe it should be pentagram and not pentameter. Your simile is very apt.
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Thank you, Pat! The things I do to get my work accepted 🙂 This will definitely be the last time I write in iambic pentameter, or pentagram 😀