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To read Shakespeare’s so-called iambic pentameter verse properly, you have to know two rules: the Accent Rule and the Resonant Rule.

Summary of the Rules

P A R

A line contains five accented syllables; one and only one unaccented syllable

must occur between every two accented ones, e.g. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.…

S A R

A half-line normally contains two or three accented syllables, e.g.

Horatio Tush, tush, ’twill not appear. Barnardo

Sit down awhile,

R R In certain circumstances, words containing an unstressed vowel before a resonant consonant (/r l n m y w/) can be read without that vowel, e.g.

Remorseless, treach(e)rous, lech(e)rous, kindless villain!


Introduction to H

The Primary Accent Rule

A line of monosyllabic alternating pentameter verse, commonly known as iambic and trochaic pentameter, contains five accented syllables; one and only one unaccented syllable must occur between every two accented ones. There are a few examples of monosyllabic alternating tetrameter verse (with four accents, as in the following passage) in Shakespeare’s plays, and a very few examples of disyllabic alternating verse (with two and only two unaccented syllables permitted between every two accented ones, as in the last two lines below); they are restricted to special occasions, as in Ariel’s song in the last act of The Tempest:

Where the bee sucks, there suck I; In a cowslip’s bell I lie; There I couch when owls do cry; On the bat’s back I do fly After summer merrily. Merrily, merrily, shall I live now, Under the blossom that hangs on the bough. In Cymbeline there is a song in Act IV Scene 2 which contains both tetrameter and trimeter monosyllabic alternating verse:

All lovers young, all lovers must Consign to thee and come to dust. No exorcizer harm thee, Nor no witchcraft charm thee. Ghost unlaid forbear thee. Nothing ill come near thee. Quiet consummation have, And renownèd be thy grave. The ghost scene in Act IV of Cymbeline is in heptameter, e.g. Hath my poor boy done aught but well, whose face I never saw? I died whilst in the womb he stayed, attending nature’s law, In this book the syllables that occur in accented position are printed in boldface, as illustrated in the preceding examples. Without such typographical help, you can tell whether the even-numbered or odd- numbered syllables are accented by comparing the two possibilities with the words’ normal stress in ordinary English. Compare, for example, the following two lines, where the accented position is marked by boldface, and the stressed vowels of ordinary speech are marked with an acute:


Introduction to H

(1) Thou wrétched, rásh, intrúding fóol, farewéll. (2) Áy, or drínking, féncing, swéaring, quárrelling, In example (1) the accented syllables are the even-numbered ones, beginning with the second, and in example (2) the accented syllables are odd-numbered ones. If the accentual pattern were reversed, there would be a mismatch between accent and stress:

(1) Thou wrétched, rásh, intrúding fóol, farewéll. (2) Áy, or drínking, féncing, swéaring, quárrelling, Certain stress/accent mismatches are allowable, but only in certain positions in the line; they are discussed in more detail below. Full lines beginning with an accented syllable, such as example (2), are uncommon in Shakespeare, though half-lines (for which see below) more commonly begin that way. Some scholars and editors consider lines beginning with an accented syllable to be unmetrical. Very few lines of pentameter verse in Hamlet begin with an accented syllable. Here is a complete list of such full lines; some have been the subject of editorial dispute:

Áy, or drínking, féncing, swéaring, quárrelling… No, not I. I never gave you aught.… Yes, it is already garrisoned.… I will do’t. Dost thou come here to whine,… It is he~re, Hamlet. Thou art slain.… To have proved most roy(a)l;_and for his passage,… A line may begin with one unaccented syllable or none, as illustrated above. As for the end of the line, it most frequently ends with no unac- cented syllables, occasionally with one, or very occasionally with two, e.g. What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,… I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.… As fits a king’s remembrance. ——Both your Majesties… And he beseeched me to entreat your Majesties… To give th’assay of arms against your Majesty,… And meant to wrack thee. But beshrew my jealousy!… Some lines can be read as having only one unaccented syllable at the end if the unaccented vowel (in parentheses) is dropped according to the Resonant Rule (for which see below):

I’ll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ign(o)rance… My lord, I came to see your father’s fun(e)ral.… Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarr(e)lling,…


Introduction to H

Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?… /palówn(i)yis/. Have of your audience been most free and bounteous.… /báwnt(i)yis/

O horrible! O horrible! most horr(i)ble! And meant to wrack thee. But beshrew my jeal(ou)sy!… And tediousness the limbs and outward flour(i)shes,… None of these lines ending in two unaccented syllables are irregular, as they all follow the rule that requires one and only one unaccented syllable between every two accented ones. Some readers consider a line ending in two unaccented syllables to be irregular, and would prefer to interpret such lines as having six accents:

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,


Introduction to H

Accent vs. Stress vs. Beat

When reading aloud, it is almost never appropriate to pronounce all accented syllables with equal stress. The most important words should get the most stress, just as in ordinary speech. One way of reading this line from Macbeth is with these three main beats, as underlined:

It is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness This book doesn’t mark beats. Beats aren’t part of the metric rule, because there is no rule for beats. The placement of beats depends on the reader’s interpretation of the meaning of the passage, and readers may disagree. In the above example, with the beat on kindness, the meaning is ‘kindness, a good feeling that humans have for each other’, but if you put the beat on human, then the phrase is equivalent to the word humankind ‘human nature’. It is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness Stress is a characteristic of words in ordinary speech: some syllables are more prominent than others, as in the noun pérmit vs. the verb permít. Accent is a feature of metrics in poetry. It can be viewed as a kind of empty slot that is ordinarily, but not always, filled by a stressed syllable. Syllables on which the beat does not fall, whether stressable (as the first syllable of néver in the following line) or not (as in the first syllable of consént), may be spoken at a faster pace. To give them seals, never my soul consent; George T. Wright, in Shakespeare’s Metrical Art, illustrates this with musical notation, where the half notes and the whole note at the end represent beats:

half notes and the whole note at the end represent beats: Half-lines often begin with rhythmic

Half-lines often begin with rhythmic triplets, as in the second half-line above (‘never my’). These triplets ignore the matching of stress with accent in various ways; they are described variously in traditional terminology (inverted feet, trochaic feet…) and are not considered to be unmetrical. A stress/accent mismatch occurs when the accent slot is occupied by a syllable that is never or rarely stressed in normal speech, as for example the boldfaced word the in the following speech from Macbeth:

More needs she the divine than the physician.


Introduction to H

Conversely, an unaccented slot may be filled with a word that is normally stressed. In the following example, the unaccented words Pour and sweet would both be stressed more than the word the in ordinary speech:

Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell, Similarly, the contrast between us (real men) and the enemy (Breton bastards) in this passage from Richard III requires the main beat of the half- line to fall on unaccented men, and the tempo to be slowed down by three contiguous stressed syllables:

If we be conquered, let men conquer us, And not these bastard Bretons… When an unstressed syllable in a polysyllabic word falls in an accented slot, we print it in italics as a warning not to put the stress on it, e.g. never in this example:

To give them seals, never my soul consent; Listed below are most of the instances of this kind of mismatch in Hamlet. (For the meaning of the symbol // in some of these examples, see below under Secondary Accent Rule.) —Mismatch in the first word of the first half-line:

Giving to you no further pers(o)nal power… Giving more light than heat, extinct in both… Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us.… Holding a weak supposal of our worth,… Passing through nature to eternity.… Running it thus—you’ll tender me a fool.… Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds… Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,… Making night hideous and we fools of nature… Being a thing immortal as itself?… Having e(v)er seen in the prenom(i)nate crimes… Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,… Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top… Grating so harshly all his days of quiet… Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?… Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.… Looking before and after, gave us not… Clamb’ring to hand, an envious sliver broke,… Singeing his pate against the burning zone,… Never make known what you have seen tonight.… Never to speak of this that you have seen.… Never to speak of this that you have heard,… Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poisoned.…


Introduction to H

Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,… Neither a borr(o)wer nor a lender be,… Murder most foul, as in the best it is,… Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer… Answer, and think upon this business.… Honored, beloved; and haply one as kind… Mother, you have my father much offended.… Mother, good night indeed. This counsellor… Richer than that which four successive kings… Winner and loser?… Nature is fine in love, and where ’tis fine… Fingered their packet, and in fine withdrew… Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.… Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,… Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety—… Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake… Hamlet, returned, shall know you are come home;… Hamlet the Dane.… Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged;… Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing… Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,… Rankly abused—but know, thou noble youth,… Haply the seas and countries different,… Truly to speak,// and with no addition,… Truly deliver.… Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.… Prompted to my revenge by hea(ve)n and hell,… Blasted with ecstasy. O woe is me… Larded with many sev(e)ral sorts of reasons… Folded the writ up in the form of th’other,… Armèd at point exactly, cap-à-pie,… Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.… Witness this army of such mass and charge,… Dang(e)rous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.… Purpose is but the slave to memory,… Taken to wife. Nor have we herein barred… Season your admiration for a while… Strengthen your patience in our last night’s speech:… Virtue itself scapes not calumnious strokes.… Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,… Angels and ministers of grace defend us!… Forward, not permanent,// sweet, not lasting,… Visit her face too roughly. Hea(ve)n and earth,… Welcome, Horatio. Welcome, good Marcellus.… Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple…


Introduction to H

Grapple_(the)m unto thy soul with hoops of steel,… Pleasant and helpful to him.… Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;… Niggard of question, but of our demands… Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbèd ground,… Hazard so near us as doth hourly grow… Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?… Follow her close; give her good watch, I pray you.… Conscience and grace to the profoundest pit!… Millions of acres on us, till our ground,…

—Mismatch in the first word of the second half-line:

As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?…

In equal scale weighing delight and dole,… Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,… And much offence too.// Touching this vision here,… Run barefoot up and down, threat(e)ning the flames… Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,… His form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones,… To mine own room again, making so bold,… As I do thee. Something too much of this.… To give them seals never my soul consent.… Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,… Attends the boist’rous ru(i)n. Never alone… Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

To the unsatisfied.

Which are not sterling.// Tender yourself more dearly…

Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,… As you are friends, scholars, and soldiers,…

How now? What news?

It is our trick; nature her custom holds,… Be thy intents wicked or charitable,… To their lord’s murder.// Roasted in wrath and fire,… Without, my lord, guarded, to know your pleasure.… Why thy canonized bones, hearsèd in death,… And to the last bendèd their light on me.… Let me not think on’t// —Frailty, thy name is woman—… Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.… Stay, give me drink. Hamlet this pearl is thine.… As of a man faithful and honorable… Her father and myself, lawful espials,… Now is he total gules, horridly tricked… Ophelia, walk you here. —Gracious, so please you,… The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plast’ring art,… No traveller returns, puzzles the will,… Antiquity forgot, custom not known—…

——Never believe it.…

——Letters my lord from Hamlet.…


Introduction to H

Such mismatches rarely occur twice in a full line. There are no examples in Hamlet. Stress/accent mismatches are rare in other positions within the line; this is the only one in Hamlet:

Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,… There are many more stress/accent mismatches that differ from the above in that they involve monosyllabic words like the in this example:

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,… Monosyllabic mismatches are not marked with any typographical device in this edition. All of the above mismatches constitute a regular feature of Shake- spearean metrics discussed in more detail in the following section on the Secondary Accent Rule. Some apparent mismatches are due to short grammatical words that may occur without any stress at all, such as upon, above, under, before, over, against:

And with his head over his shoulder turned Over the nasty sty!Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.After the Danish sword, and thy free aweUnder the which he shall not choose but fall;… Under the moon, can save the thing from death… That it be proof and bulwark against sense.… Other apparent mismatches may be simply the result of a regular shift in stress to the first syllable of a modifying word or phrase when the following word begins with a stressed syllable, as in Long Island vs. Long Island Sound, or sixteen vs. sixteen years. Thus secure, absurd, profound, obscure:

Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole… No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,… There’s matter in these sighs, these profound heaves.… His means of death, his obscure funeral—… An apparent stress/accent mismatch may be due to the fact that Shakespeare’s English simply differs from modern English with respect to the position of stress. Some stress variants in Hamlet reflect the difference between today’s British and American English, such as cómbat or combát vs. combát, resp.; likewise: díscóurse vs. díscourse. Other variants are characteristic of Elizabethan English or simply occur in Shakespeare’s


Introduction to H

works: cómmendable, perséver, canónize, cómpléte, cómpáct, cónfíne, chárácter, cómráde, sécúre, révénue, ábsúrd, óbscúre, óutfáce. These apparent stress/accent mismatches are explained in footnotes. The interplay of beats and accents and stresses is illustrated in the following passage from Macbeth Act I Scene 7. The boldface accents are mine, but the underlined beats are based on a transcription by Helge Kökeritz in his Shakespeare’s Pronunciation (whose interpretation of some lines I mildly disagree with):

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly. If th’assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success, that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here, But here upon this bank and shoal of time, We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases We still have judgment here, that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague th’inventor.// This even-handed justice Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice To our own lips. He’s here in double trust:

First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murd(e)rer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against The deep damnation of his taking-off; And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heaven’s cher(u)bins, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself And falls on th’other—


Introduction to H

The Secondary Accent Rule: Half-lines

A half-line normally contains either two or three accents (one or four

exceptionally). There are two parts to the Secondary Accent Rule:

(1) A full line consists of two half-lines. The invocation of this rule accounts for certain apparent violations of the Primary Accent Rule, e.g. the number of accents in two half-lines of three accents each yields six accents rather than the five allowed by the Primary Accent Rule. I had not quoted him.// I feared he did but trifle…

(2) The first accent slot in a half-line may be occupied by an unstressed syllable, including an unstressed syllable of a polysyllabic word. This rule takes into account the stress/accent mismatches discussed in the preceding section; as stated there, the invocation of this rule in this edition is marked by boldfaced italics only in the case

of polysyllabic words.

Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.… To give them seals never my soul consent.… Such mismatches are not violations of a rule of metrics, but a regular feature of Shakespeare’s verse.

In the broad sense, most full lines can be said to consist of two half-

lines; the point at which the two half-lines meet, the mid-line break, is traditionally called the caesura. The term half-line can also be used in a narrow sense to refer to lines of printed verse that do not conform to the Primary Accent Rule. The remainder of this section will use the term in this narrow sense. Many half-lines come in pairs. There are two kinds of paired half- lines: shared half-lines and joined half-lines. Two shared half-lines are spoken by two different speakers and appear in two lines of print, e.g.


Who is’t that can inform me?


That can I.

Two joined half-lines are spoken by one speaker and appear in one line of print, e.g. And by opposing end them.// To die, to sleep


Introduction to H

Shared half-lines

Shared half-lines usually mesh together so as to be in accord with the Primary Accent Rule, as in the above example, but they often total fewer or more than the standard number of accents, or have contiguous

accented or unaccented syllables at their juncture. No one considers such cases to be unmetrical, e.g. the following interchange with six accents:


Farewell, Ophelia, and remember well What I have said to you.


’Tis in my mem(o)ry locked,

Joined half-lines

Unlike shared half-lines, joined half-lines often elicit editorial com- ment, because at least some of them can be viewed as violations of the Primary Accent Rule or whatever set of rules a particular editor espouses. This edition makes no judgement on whether certain types of shared half- lines are “unmetrical” or not, but simply marks them all with a double slash and lists them all here in the Introduction. The reader may interpret the double slash as marking the solution to a metrical problem (i.e. the invocation of the Secondary Accent Rule) or as marking simply the existence of a metrical irregularity. The most common type of joined half-lines has five accents in accordance with the primary rule, but has contiguous unaccented syllables at the juncture of the two half-lines, contrary to the primary rule, e.g. Come for the third, Laertes.// You do but dally.… The mid-line metrical break coincides with a major syntactical break, often marked with a period or semi-colon. No one considers such lines to be unmetrical. Below is a complete listing of all the occurrences of the double slash in Hamlet classified by the type of violation of the Primary Accent Rule. The classification is not airtight, because there is often more than one answer to a metrical question, e.g. whether this line has five or six accents:

Had he been vanquisher;// as, by the same comart… Had he been vanquisher;// as, by the same comartFive accents; contiguous unaccented syllables across the mid-line break:

How now, Horatio?// You tremble and look pale.Dared to the combat;// in which our valiant HamletHad he been vanquisher;// as, by the same comart… His fell to Hamlet.// Now, sir, young Fortinbras,Possess it merely.// That it should come to this… Must I remember?// Why, she would hang on him


Introduction to H

By what it fed on;// and yet within a month—… Let me not think on’t// —Frailty, thy name is woman—… My father’s brother// —but no more like my father… Thrift, thrift, Horatio.// The funeral baked meats… Been thus encountered:// a figure like your father… Yet here, Laertes?// Aboard, aboard for shame.… Which are not sterling.// Tender yourself more dearly… And much offence too.// Touching this vision here,… As ‘Well, we know’, or// ‘We could and if we would’,… That’s not my meaning;// but breathe his faults so quaintly… To their lord’s murder.// Roasted in wrath and fire,… Doth rend the region;// so after Pyrrhus’ pause… Of Hamlet’s wildness;// so shall I hope your virtues…

The fair Ophelia.// Nymph, in thy orisons… Was not like madness.// There’s something in his soul… To feed and clothe thee?// Why should the poor be flattered?… Observe my uncle.// If his occulted guilt… The lives of many.// The cess of majesty… To hear the process.// I’ll warr(a)nt she’ll tax him home,… To make them ranker.// Forgive me this my virtue,… With fiery quickness.// Therefore prepare thyself.… Over his kingdom.// You know the rendezvous.… O’erbears your officers.// The rabble call him lord,… And think it pastime.// You shortly shall hear more.… For her perfections.// But my revenge will come.…


one could match you.// The scrimers of their nation…


you opposed them.// Sir, this report of his


sword unbated,// and in a pass of practice…

With this contagion,// that if I gall him slightly,… So fast they follow.// Your sister’s drowned, Laertes.… Unto that element.// But long it could not be… Till the last trumpet:// for charitable prayers… So much for this, sir.// Now shall you see the other.… That hurts by easing.// But to the quick of th’ulcer:… To tell my story.// What warlike noise is this?… To do obsequious sorrow.// But to persever… I_(a)m very glad to see you.// Good even, sir,… I made to her in marriage,// and to decline… With most mirac(u)lous organ.// I’ll have these players… And by opposing end them.// To die, to sleep—… Else could you not have motion;// but sure that sense… And makes as healthful music.// It is not madness… The hearers to collection.// They aim at it,… Convert his gyves to graces;// so that my arrows,… Come for the third, Laertes.// You do but dally.…


Introduction to H

Unbated and envenomed.// The fou~l practice… To have proved most royal;// and for his passage,… To our most valiant brother.// So much for him.…

Five accents; contiguous unaccented syllables on one side of the mid-line break:

Of impious stubbornness,// ’tis unmanly grief,… Would make them capable.// —Do not look upon me,…

Five accents; contiguous accented syllables at the mid-line break:

Forward, not permanent,// sweet, not lasting,Thence to a watch,// thence into a weakness,Truly to speak,// and with no addition,To hide the slain?// O, from this time forth

Six accents; three accents in each half-line:

Did slay this Fortinbras,// who by a sealed compact… The memory be green,// and that it us befitted… That father lost, lost his//—and the survivor bound… Are burnt and purged away.// But that I am forbid

And shall I couple hell?// O fie! Hold, hold, my heart,…

A worthy pioneer!// Once more remove, good friends.…

God willing, shall not lack.// Let us go in together.…

I had not quoted him.// I feared he did but trifle…

Contagion to this world.// Now could I drink hot blood,…

For good Polonius’ death//—and we have done but greenly… To quit him with this arm?// And is’t not to be damned

I humbly thank you sir.// —Dost know this waterfly?…

The point envenomed too!// Then, venom, to thy work! Hyperion to a satyr,// so loving to my mother

Or ‘If we list to speak’, or// ‘There be and if they might’,

A document in madness:// thoughts and remembrance fitted.

Ah ha, boy, say’st thou so?// Art thou there, truepenny?

Six accents; four accents in a half-line:

Mark you, your party in converse,// him you would sound,…

In hugger-mugger to inter him;// poor Ophelia…

What’s near it with it.// Or it is a massy wheel… Stewed in corruption,// honeying and making love… Or then, or then,// with such or such, ‘and as you say,

Six accents; five accents in a half-line:

The very faculties of eyes and ears.// Yet I,

Four accents:

Stay, speak, speak,// I charge thee speak.… Lends the tongue vows.// These blazes, daughter,… As you are friends,// scholars, and soldiers, About, my brain.// Hum—I have heard… To speak of horrors,// he comes before me.… As a would draw it.// Long stayed he so.


Introduction to H

A brother’s murder.// Pray can I not,… The drink, the drink!// I am poisoned.… Look to’t, I charge you.// Come your ways.… My father//—methinks I see my father—… Indeed,// upon my sword, indeed.… Drabbing//—you may go so far.… A scullion! fie upon’t!// Foh!… Your loves, as mine to you.// Farewell.…


Introduction to H

The Resonant Rule: ambiguous syllabicity

In certain circumstances, words containing an unstressed vowel before a resonant consonant (/r l n m y w/) can be read two ways. For example, the word general can be pronounced with three syllables (as it is spelled), or with two syllables (sometimes spelt gen’ral). When the meter requires three, we will print it as general; when the meter requires two, we will

print is as gen(e)ral, using parentheses rather than apostrophes to mark the dropped vowel, as all apostrophes in this book are the property of Shakespeare and his editors. When I to sulph’rous and tormenting flames… Like to a murd’ring-piece, in many places… Thus, warrant is to be pronounced with one rather than two syllables whether printed with an apostrophe or with parentheses:

Perchance ’twill walk again. I’ll warr(a)nt you, fear me not.

——I war’nt it will.…

Dropping an unstressed vowel is often called syncopation; sometimes it is called slurring, particularly by people who don’t approve. Syncopation before resonants may cross the word boundary, so that the resonant is pronounced as part of the neighboring word, e.g. In his true nat(u)re,_and we ourselves compelled… Grapple_(the)m unto thy soul with hoops of steel,…

Into the chap(e)l


pray you haste in this.…

To have proved most roy(a)l;_and for his passage,… ’Tis sweet and comm(en)dable_in your nature, Hamlet,… Let it be tenable_in your silence still;… As one incapable_of her own distress,… Upon the platform ’twixt elev(e)n_and twelve… ’Faith no, as you may seas(o)n_it in the charge,… The Frenchman gave you; bring you,_(i)n fine, together,… Foll(o)w_(h)im at foot. Tempt him with speed aboard.… Fell into_a sadness, then into a fast,… What, have you gi(ve)n him any_(h)ard words of late?… How does your honor for this many_a day?… And in his grave rained many_a tear My virtue or my plague, be_(i)t either which,… Syncopation is possible but not mandatory in terms of the Accent Rule at line end or before the mid-line break, since the rule allows for contiguous unaccented syllables in that position, e.g.


Introduction to H

My lord, I came to see your father’s fun(e)ral.… Of all their conf(e)rence. If she find him not,… Syncopation may occur in disyllabic words. Compare coward with two syllables and with one:

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,… And ever three parts cow(a)rd—I do not know… The word power occurs more often syncopated than not:

No fairy takes, nor witch hath pow(e)r to charm,… My op(e)rant pow(e)rs their functions leave to do;… As my great pow(e)r thereof may give thee sense,… Good sir, whose pow(e)rs are these?… But syncopation is more usual in a sequence of stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. Here is the list of syncopated words in Hamlet; it is exhaustive, aside from a very few problematic cases that will be found in footnotes:

Before /r/:

Compare generous with three and two syllables, resp.:

Most generous, and free from all contriving,… Are of a most select and gen(e)rous chief in that.… Free me so far in your most gen(e)rous thoughts… Other examples of syncopation before /r/:

Shall in the gen(e)ral censure take corruption…

In gen(e)ral synod take away her power,…

And cleave the gen(e)ral ear with horrid speech,… Did the King sigh, but with a gen(e)ral groan.…

Is the great love the gen(e)ral gender bear him,

The heart-ache and the thousand nat(u)ral shocks… Thy nat(u)ral magic and dire property… And with th’incorp(o)ral air do hold discourse?…

With mirth in fun(e)ral and with dirge in marriage,That lib(e)ral shepherds give a grosser name,…

If by direct or by collat(e)ral hand

Larded with many sev(e)ral sorts of reasons…

He waxes desp(e)rate with imagination.…

A sister driven into desp’rate terms,…

And leads the will to desp(e)rate undertakings… The corse they follow did with desp(e)rate hand… Delib(e)rate pause. Diseases desp(e)rate grown… While one with mod(e)rate haste might tell a hundred.… Ay, that incestuous, that adult(e)rate beast,… My pulse as yours doth temp(e)rately keep time,… Confed(e)rate season, else no creature seeing,…


Introduction to H

The great man down, you mark his fav(o)rite flies;… With turbulent and dang(e)rous lunacy?… How dang(e)rous is it that this man goes loose!… Dang(e)rous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.… ’Tis dang(e)rous when the baser nature comes

It will but skin and film the ulc(e)rous place,…

With witchcraft of his wit, with trait(o)rous gifts—… The treach(e)rous instrument is in thy hand,…

Remorseless, treach(e)rous, lech(e)rous, kindless villain!… Here, thou incestuous, murd(e)rous, damnèd Dane,… Attends the boist(e)rous ru(i)n. Never alone… Doth make the night joint-lab(o)rer with the day,

No more, sweet Hamlet.

In his true nat(u)re,_and we ourselves compelled

Treach(e)ry! Seek it out.… And marshal me to knav(e)ry. Let it work:…

O royal knav(e)ry!—an exact command,…

——A murd(e)rer and a villain,…

But sure the brav(e)ry of his grief did put meAnd terms compulsat(o)ry those foresaid lands… ’Tis in my mem(o)ry locked,I have some rights of mem(o)ry in this kingdom,… Why, this is hire and sal(a)ry, not revenge.…

Keeps wassail, and the swagg(e)ring upspring reels;…

As one, in suff(e)ring all, that suffers nothing,…

Lay not that flatt(e)ring unction to your soul,… And, like the kind life-rend(e)ring pelican

A min(i)st(e)ring angel shall my sister be

Conjures the wand(e)ring stars and makes them stand… The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plast’ring art,… Which might deprive your sov(e)reignty of reason… Might, by the sov(e)reign pow(e)r you have of us,… Now see that noble and most sov(e)reign reason… Our sov(e)reign process, which imports at full,… Of rev(e)rend Priam, seemed i’th’air to stick;… Confound the ign(o)rant, and amaze indeed… I’ll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ign(o)rance… My op(e)rant pow(e)rs their functions leave to do;… Of all their conf(e)rence. If she find him not,… To serve in such a diff(e)rence. What de(vi)l was’t… For it is as the air, invuln(e)rable,… And ever three parts cow(a)rd—I do not know… The ratifi(e)rs and props of every word—… Of crow-flow(e)rs, nettles, daisies, and long purples,…


Introduction to H

Before /l/:

Compare particular with four and three syllables, resp.:

Why seems it so particular with thee?… Than your particular demands will touch it.… In what partic(u)lar thought to work I know not,… As he in his partic(u)lar sect and force… So, oft it chances in partic(u)lar men… From that partic(u)lar fault. The dram of evil… And each partic(u)lar hair to stand an end… Other examples of syncopation before /l/:

Whose vi(o)lent property