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Trochaic Tetrameter

Trochaic tetrameter is a rapid meter of poetry consisting of four feet of trochees. A trochee is made up of one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed syllable (the opposite of an iamb). Here is the flow of a line of trochaic tetrameter:

BAboom / BAboom / BAboom / BAboom.

Although iambic pentameter is the primary meter used in Shakespeare's plays and poems, you will find many lines of trochaic tetrameter. Here is an example of trochaic tetrameter from The Phoenix and the Turtle:

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together,
To themselves yet either neither,
Simple were so well compounded. (41-44)

The passages spoken by the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Witches’ chants in Macbeth are mostly written in an incomplete (catalectic) form of trochaic tetrameter:

Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe. (Macbeth, 4.1.27), Third Witch

For a full analysis please see the link below.


How to cite this article:

Mabillard, Amanda. Trochaic Tetrameter in Shakespeare. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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