Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter
aka: I Speak In Meter
Sometimes in works, there is a certain kind,
who always have poetic forms
In every situation—great or small—
they can't resist the urge to rhyme at all.
Though often plainer words would suit much better, Gratuitous Iambic Penta-MET-er
Poetic meter 101
This trope may be found in the works below:
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Anime & Manga
- The Fatima Fates sometimes lapse into iambic pentameter when delivering a prophecy in The Five Star Stories, though this may only be in the English version. What's strange is that Clotho's prophecy in Volume II has the rhyming couplet at the beginning rather than the end.
- Taking this in a new and strange direction, the demon Etrigan in the DC Universe speaks in rhyme. This is taken by one of the Endless as a sign he has been promoted in the demonic ranks. And when Alan Moore wrote him, he actually did speak iambic pentameter. One incarnation of him accidentally forgot to rhyme in haste, meaning it's a conscious effort on his part rather than automatically how speech comes to him.
- Played with in the miniseries Arkham Asylum: Living Hell when it turns out that not only do many demons speak in rhyme, anything not in rhyme is incomprehensible. Thus, the human/demon interpreter job is left to Humpty Dumpty, who speaks fluent Poetic.
- In Shadowpact, it was revealed that rhyming demons are considered as part of the underworld's upper class and one has to earn the privilege to become one. However, it must be a lower rank than being (a) Lord of Hell, as Neron was furious to be promoted to rhyming demon. Yes, a lowering of rank is called being promoted. They're demons. The lower they are, the more powerful and evil they are. Yes, it's stupid. But they discuss it at length when Blue Devil got his demotion and started rhyming.
- In an issue of Justice League of America there's a demon practising rhyming speech, hoping for an eventual promotion.
- The Super-Buddies were sent to Hell when Booster Gold was toying with Dr. Fate's stuff. Blue Beetle caught Etrigan saying something that did not rhyme. His only reply was "So sue me"
- Garth Ennis's Hitman also played with this, with a lower ranking demon named Baytor who, due to his inability to rise in Hell's ranks, could only say, "I am Baytor!"
- An issue of Excalibur told from the point of view of Lockheed featured him flying around spouting bad rhyme. Which is interesting, as it's been suggested on more than one occasion that, being an alien life-form, his vocal apparatus just can't cope with English.
- In another example of Neil Gaiman using this trope, the conversations between Dream and the young Shakespeare in The Sandman are actually in iambic pentameter. The character Nuala also briefly drops into iambic pentameter at one point. Dream himself, when explaining himself to queen Titania of Faerie, also goes into blank verse mode. Understandable, as this is the issue where A Midsummer Night`s Dream is performed.
- Gaiman makes a hobby of writing poems in unusual verse formats that have fallen out of fashion, sometimes for centuries. The prevalence of them appearing in his comic work is pure Author Appeal.
- In an early issue of The Sandman, Lucifer claims that various poetic styles have been fashionable amongst demons at different times, and currently it happens to be rhyming.
- Another Alan Moore example - the title Anti-Hero of V for Vendetta occasionally speaks in iambic pentameter, as part of his theatrical masquerade and his celebration of literature long suppressed. Particularly apt since "V" is "5" in Roman numerals.
- Another Alan Moore example: Witch Wench, a 17th-century superheroine (and member of the time-travelling League of Infinity) introduced during Moore's run on Supreme.
- Alan Moore really loves his iambic pentameter; in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book The Black Dossier, the final passage features Prospero explaining at length(and in iambic pentameter) the importance of fiction. Makes sense, after all he is a character from Shakespeare.
- It comes back in Century: 1969, in the form of a punk rocker in a seedy nightclub singing in perfect iambic pentameter.
- A supplemental comic for the most recent comic incarnation of the Transformers explains Wheelie's habitual rhyming as due to being stuck on an uninhabited planet alongside an alien with a translation device that only works reliably in rhyme. After several centuries of that, Wheelie's still rhyming by force of habit. Unless something scares him badly enough, that is.
- In Fables spinoff Jack of Fables, Lady Luck speaks in Iambic Pentameter.
- In Empowered, the Caged Demonwolf combines this with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness and Purple Prose (also, thesaurus abuse) for some truly remarkable dialogue.
- One professor in a story by Wilhelm Busch talks like this.
- Amatsu-Mikaboshi in Incredible Hercules speaks purely in haiku, for no particular reason. He can speak normally, so it just seems like he's doing it because he can.
- A not-quite-famous example in cinema would be Rudy Ray Moore's alter-ego Dolemite.
- The entirety of Sally Potter's Yes is spoken in rhyming iambic pentameter.
- The musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls Of Rochefort) has a scene in which everyone speaks in alexandrines (the classical French line and equivalent of the iambic pentameter.)
- James Gunn told Lloyd Kaufman he wrote Tromeo and Juliet completely in iambic pentameter. He didn't, but there is a lot of it.
- The medieval parts of Roger Corman's The Undead have much of the dialog in varying types of blank verse.
- In The Exploits of Ebenezum by Craig Shaw Gardner, we are almost immediately introduced to a Big Bad rhyming demon named Guxx Unfufadoo. He can speak without rhyming, but as his power (defined very generically) grows with every rhyme, he almost never fails to rhyme. In the succeeding trilogy he joins the party in an Enemy Mine scenario, with a Malfunction Malady where sneezing fits prevent him from rhyming... so he only speaks in blank verse with a specific beat pattern (and hopes he doesn't reflexively end a verse in a rhyme and start sneezing).
- The Lord of the Rings features Tom Bombadil, an enigmatic figure who speaks in iambic tetrameter and actually made the ring itself turn invisible.
- In The Particolored Unicorn by John De Cles, all unicorns love to show off—some speak Sanskrit, some recite poetry, in order to be impressive pets. Lifesaver, the titular unicorn, speaks in iambic pentameter. As with the Etrigan example above, he drops it at one point in his excitement.
- In The Fires of Affliction, the leader of the Mystery Cult speaks entirely in iambic pentameter up until The Reveal. Incidentally, the book was written by one of the editors of the English script for Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, which also features this trope.
- In Poul Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest the dialog is pretty much entirely in iambic pentameter, mostly unrhymed.
- The main character in The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss ends up spending some time in Fae, where most conversations seem to be carried out in rhyming couplets. It's implied that this is a somewhat whimsical form of amusement, rather than a natural speech pattern.
- Lord Peter Wimsey keeps doing this unintentionally in Busman's Honeymoon. The other characters lampshade it.
- in Ruled Britannia not only are Marlowe and Shakespeare's plays obviously in Iambic Pentameter, their conversations between each other often are as well.
- In the Star Trek: The Lost Era novel The Buried Age, there's a scene where Picard and Ariel discuss Shakespeare, and he realises afterwards that she was casually speaking in iambic pentameter, including finishing with a rhyming couplet.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: The Original Series: One of the reasons Captain James Kirk's dialogue sounds so stilted or fake is that William Shatner insisted on using varying iambic and trochaic rhythms, presumably due to his Shakespearean training. It was even parodied on Whose Line Is It Anyway??
Ryan Stiles: Spock, put the tribbles down and help me with the ship!
- Less well-known is Avery Brooks' line readings from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Brooks was also familiar with The Bard from his theater days.) As the series wore on, Captain Sisko's language became looser and more impassioned, but in the beginning he spoke entirely in sleepy Shatnerese.
- Maldis, a two-episode villain on Farscape once took the form of a wizard who always spoke in iambic pentameter.
- In the third season of White Collar, Conspiracy Theorist Mozzie has started knocking on Neal's door in iambic pentameter.
- An entire episode of Moonlighting consisted of lines in iambic pentameter. For bonus awesome, it was a hilarious parody of The Taming of the Shrew.
- Or, the scene with David, Maddie, and a hotel security officer all speaking in Seussian rhyming couplets:
Security Officer: I'm sorry, but you're not on the guest list.
David: That's because we're not guests. We're looking for a man with a mole on his nose.
Officer: A mole on his nose?
Maddie: A mole on his nose.
Officer: [to Maddie] What kind of clothes?
Maddie: [to David] What kind of clothes?
David: What kind of clothes do you suppose?
Officer: What kind of clothes do I suppose would be worn by a man with a mole on his nose? Who knows?
David: Did I happen to mention,did I bother to disclose, that this man that we're seeking with the mole on his nose? I'm not sure of his clothes or anything else, except he's Chinese, a big clue by itself.
Officer: I'm sorry to say, I'm sad to report, I haven't seen anyone at all of that sort. Not a man who's Chinese with a mole on his nose with some kind of clothes that you can't suppose. So get away from this door and get out of this place, or I'll have to hurt you - put my foot in your face.
- One episode of the The West Wing had the president and staff wondering about the mental capacity of one of the Justices of the Supreme Court after he issued comments in Iambic Tetrameter, identified positively by the writing staff.
- Ainsley Hayes apparently does this as a nervous tic, such as in this exchange from "And It's Surely to Their Credit":
Ainsley: Mr. Tribbey? I'd like to do well on this, my first assignment. Any advice you could give me that might point me the way of success would be, by me, appreciated.
Lionel Tribbey: Well, not speaking in iambic pentameter might be a step in the right direction.
- In the 2000 Dune miniseries, the Baron Harkonnen was fond of speaking in rhyming couplets.
- Two Monsters of the Week from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers did this, the Pumpkin Rapper and the Hate Master.
- Game of Thrones. In "The Mountain and the Viper" Daenerys Targaryen banishes someone with a rhyming couplet.
If you're found in Meereen past break of day
I'll have your head thrown into Slavers' Bay
- Doctor Who:
- "The Crusades", which features a guest cast made up of the big Shakespearean actors of the day, has much of their dialogue written in iambic pentameter (usually in scenes where none of the TARDIS crew are present).
- Much of Davros's Motive Rant at the Doctor in "Genesis of the Daleks" is written this way, probably to draw attention to the Shakespearean elements of Davros's character:
Davros: Evil? No - no! I will not accept that.
They are conditioned simply to survive.
They can survive only by becoming
the dominant species. When all other
life forms are suppressed, when the Daleks are
the supreme rulers of the universe,
then you will have peace, wars will end. They are
the power not of evil, but of good.
(...)That pow'r would set me up above the gods.
And through the Daleks, I shall have that pow'r!
: The game gives a guide for some Elizabethan phrases; though it doesn't advocate actually improvising in meter, some very motivated players try.
- There is a very amusing scene in the play Goodnight Desdemona Good Morning Juliet, where the main character, having been sucked into Othello, realizes that she is now effortlessly speaking in iambic pentameter.
It's all so strange, What's even stranger though
I speak in blank verse like the characters
Unrhymed Iambical Pentameter
It seems to come quite naturally to me
I feel so eloquent and... eloquent
My God. I think I'm on an acid trip.
- Subverted in Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, in which the title character, having learned that it is more elegant to speak in prose rather than affecting metre, is delighted to learn he has been speaking prose all his life without knowing it.
- Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, Princess Ida has its dialogue in blank verse, which is unrhymed iambic pentameter. The long Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem that Princess Ida parodies used the same meter.
- Although the majority of his plays, like most Elizabethan drama, are written in iambic pentameter, Shakespeare lampshades this trope a bit in As You Like It — after Orlando interrupts a prose conversation between Jaques and Rosalind with "Good day and happiness, dear Rosalind!" Jaques storms off, exclaiming "Nay, then, God buy you, an you talk in blank verse" (this despite the fact that Jaques himself talks in blank verse quite a bit elsewhere in the play). Amusingly, the subsequent conversation between Rosalind and Orlando is in prose.
- Legacy of Kain wouldn't be itself without this.
- A video game example can be found Final Fantasy XII, where the immortals that muck about with history actually do, for the most part, speak iambic tetrameter. The rebel of their number speaks in iambic pentameter.
- This may be a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth, in which the Witches speak trochaic tetrameter (four feet, alternating stress, starting with a stressed syllable) to help illustrate their otherworldly nature.
- Bastian in Fire Emblem 9 speaks entirely in iambic pentameter. Elincia also uses it for a Rousing Speech.
- This reoccurs in Radiant Dawn: the prince of Daein, Pelleas, once gives a speech that's mostly in this meter to his troops. Yet Bastian's verse is nowhere to be found.
- In the Halo series, the Flood intelligence Gravemind (usually) speaks in rhyming couplets of trochaic heptameter (seven being Bungie's Arc Number). This pushes its already impressive hamminess Up to Eleven. For example, referring to Master Chief and the Arbiter, respectively:
- When Cortana asked it why it did so in Human Weakness, it simply said it was preference, as after having consumed many poets from different cultures, it grew fond of their gifts.
Gravemind: I have the memories of many poets far beyond your limited human culture. And I have the quickness of intellect to compose all manner of poetic forms as I speak rather than labor over mere words for days.
- The elven hero Findan from Heroes of Might and Magic V speaks in various kinds of poetic metre. Many of his lines are haiku.
- In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, every line Barlowe says between Shanoa losing her memory and the beginning of his boss fight is in iambic pentameter.
- Vangers featured Eleepods - a race of fat and lazy worms obsessed with poetry. Their manner of speech also resembles blank verse, but this was Lost in Translation.
- Resident Evil 5 has one character in a flashback who doesn't usually speak this way, but punctuates one of his lines to make it especially blatant:
Ironic, isn't it? For one who has the right to be a god!
- Child of Light has this for the narration. Justified in that the story is presented as someone reading from a book of fairy tales.
- Julien, of Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy speaks like this (in the English version of the game, at least), being a parody of Romeo from Romeo and Juliet.
- Zer0 of Borderlands 2 speaks primarily in haiku. No one else is sure why he does so.
- Kingdom of Loathing features gratuitous haiku, limerick and anapestic tetrameter.
- Played straight in the Epic Rap Battles of History episode "Dr Seuss vs Shakespeare", as it is done by the Bard (well, George Watsky) himself, in the first several lines:
Come bite my thumb!
I hope you know the stakes
I'll put a slug between your shoulder blades
Then ask what light through yonder poser breaks?
- When Kyle introduces Brows Held High's Shakespeare month, he does the entire introductory video in iambic pentameter. Concluding with a fervent (almost frightened) affirmation that he is not going to be doing the whole month like that.
- In the Hungarian translation of The Flintstones, everybody speaks in rhymes. MindScrewing, indeed.
- Wordsworth in Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats doesn't take the name of a poet for nothing.
- In Hoodwinked, Red comes across Japeth, a singing senile country western mountain goat:
Red Puckett: I'm looking for Granny Puckett's house?
Japeth the Goat: [singing] Graaaaaaaanneeee Puckeeeett...
Red Puckett: Could you stop singing for one moment?
Red Puckett: Everything?
Japeth the Goat: [speaking] That's right.
Red Puckett: You just talked! Just now!
Japeth the Goat: Oh, did I? [singing] Did I? Dididididodadidididoooo...
- A really gratuitous example from the trailer for the third Madagascar film: "You FOOL! How COULD you LET them GET aWAY!?"
- Underdog speaks in rhyming couplets. Interestingly, his alter-ego Shoeshine Boy does not.
- Everything Zecora says is in rhyme. She does it each and every time.