Attempting Iambic Pentameter

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

  1. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

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