Rhythm derives from the Greek rhythnzos which in turn derives from rhem which means to flow. Rhythm is generally understood as an ordered alternation of contrasting elements. However, you noticed above that Shakespeare gave expression to his personal feelings in sonnet 71 by wrenching the metre. Mutability, death and decay were a recurrent theme in the poetry of the Elizabethan age and the ground rhythm of iambic pentameter adequately expresses it. However, if Shakespeare had made periodicity of accent the sine qua lion of his rhythm it would have been only at the cost of his expressive range.

Unlike sonnet 71, sonnet 116 is, to use Gerard Manley Hopltins’s term, metrically 1 “counter-pointed ‘I. Trochaic reversal in the first foot is not unusual in an iambic pentameter line. However, Shakespeare makes use of a trochaic foot even in the second. In fact the only iambic foot is the third foot which is succeeded by a pyrrhic- spondaic combination. The first line is enjambed i.e., it runs over to the second line with its three iambic feet and a caesura and a reversed fourth foot. The sudden violence of the poet’s feeling is checked with the help of two pyrrhic feet alternating , . with the iambic ones in the last line of the first quatrain. The iambic ground rhythm is fully established only in the second quatrain. . – The third quatrain, however, begins with a reversal and a spondaic substitution. In the last line of the quatrain the rhetorical emphasis on the third foot is supported acoustically with the help of a spondee. These deviations help the poet in lifting the theme above mundane realities and communicating his “meaning” better.

We had a glimpse of Shakespeare’s manipulation of metre in two of his sonnets. Even with the help ofjust two samples we can say that Shakespeare has a powerful and distinctive style. The prosody of every poet of genius is unique and his rhythm is perhaps the most personal of the expressive equipments. However, we cannot forget that a language has a metrical pattern peculiar to itself. There is also a historical determinant of the choice of metre. Complex factors contribute towards the determination of rhythm. Nature herself said Aristotle, ‘teaches the choice of the proper measure’. However, it is the poet’s task to hear her voice with sincerity and humility if she is to discover her/himself.

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