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Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter

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Among creators, there's a certain kind
Who always have poetic forms in mind.
In ev'ry situation — great or small—
They can't resist the urge to rhyme at all,
And even if they don't use rhymes, you hear
Poetic rhythms jangle on the ear.
Though often plainer words would suit much better,
Gratuitous Iambic Penta-MET-er.

Poetic Meter 101 

This kind of verse is very common in William Shakespeare, as in for example "Un-EA-sy LIES the HEAD that WEARS a CROWN" (Henry IV, Part 2). This trope can apply to any dialogue written in a rhythmic verse form, though.

You'll find this trope within 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. This is probably a deliberate artistic choice to highly the nonlinear nature of time in the FSS universe.

    Comic Books 
  • Taking this in a new and strange direction, the demon Etrigan in The DCU 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 writes him, he actually does speak iambic pentameter. One incarnation of him accidentally forgot to rhyme in haste, meaning that 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 to them. Thus, the human/demon interpreter job is left to Humpty Dumpty, who speaks fluent Poetic.
    • In Shadowpact, it is 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 gets his demotion and starts rhyming.
    • In an issue of Justice League of America, there's a demon practicing rhyming speech, hoping for an eventual promotion.
    • The Super-Buddies are sent to Hell when Booster Gold toys with Dr. Fate's stuff. Blue Beetle catches Etrigan saying something that doesn't rhyme. His only reply is "So sue me".
    • Garth Ennis's Hitman (1993) also plays with this, with a lower ranking demon named Baytor who, due to his inability to rise in Hell's ranks, can only say, "I am Baytor!"
  • An issue of Excalibur (Marvel Comics) told from the point of view of Lockheed features 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 (1989) 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, since 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 the 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.
  • From Herc's book onwards / Chaos King speaks in Haiku / for added coolness.
    "When Chaos triumphs, / even Haiku will vanish. / Only then I weep."
  • In De Cape et de Crocs, Maupertuis and the Master-at-Arms especially like to practice the art of "Rixme" (a portmanteau between the french words "rixe" and "rime", respectively "fight" and "rhyme"), which is fencing while taunting the opponent in Alexandrines. Justified, since they are fencers, poets and gentlemen, and in the Master-at-arms case, Cyrano de Bergerac.
  • In the Asterix comic, Asterix and Cleopatra, an Egyptian named Edifis makes a journey to Gaul to seek the help of Getafix the Druid. Edifis speaks in what sounds like a stilted verse-form. The druid explains to a bemused Asterix and Obelix what it is, and makes a pun: "C'est un alexandrin", ie "He's from Alexandria". note  English translations render Edifis's speech into iambic pentameter to carry over something of the pun.

    Fan Works 

    Film - Animated 
  • 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?
    Japeth the Goat: [singing] No I can't, wish I could, but a mountain witch done put a spell on me, 37 years agoooooooo, and now I gotta sing every thing I saaaaaaaaayyyyyy...
    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...
    [Red gives a pissed off Aside Glance to the audience]
  • A really gratuitous example from the trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: "You FOOL! How COULD you LET them GET aWAY!?"

    Film - Live Action 
  • 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.
  • The Boob's dialogue in Yellow Submarine is almost exclusively in rhyming couplets. He can even make rhymes from whatever the Beatles say to him, even if it doesn't follow form or iambic pentameter precisely.
    Paul: Hey fellas, look!
    Boob: (writing on a note pad with a pen between his toes) The footnotes for my nineteenth book. This is my standard procedure for doing it. And while I compose it, I'm also reviewing it.
    George: A boob for all seasons.
    Paul: How can he lose?
    John: Were your notices good?
    Boob: It's my policy never to read my reviews.

  • 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).
  • Lewis Carroll's "Hiawatha's Photographing" is a parody of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's narrative poem "The Song of Hiawatha". It's preceded by an introduction which is written as normal text, but stealthily follows the same meter as both poems (trochaic tetrameter).
    In an age of imitation, I can claim no special merit for this slight attempt at doing what is known to be so easy. Any fairly practised writer, with the slightest ear for rhythm, could compose, for hours together, in the easy running metre of "The Song of Hiawatha." Having, then, distinctly stated that I challenge no attention in the following little poem to its merely verbal jingle, I must beg the candid reader to confine his criticism to its treatment of the subject.
  • The Lord of the Rings features Tom Bombadil, an enigmatic figure who often breaks into verse 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.
  • Ruled Brittania: much of the dialogue is written in iambic pentameter, as its cribbed from various plays of the era.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: GRRM's writing style is heavily iambic, and iambic pentameter occurs frequently enough that it's unlikely to be coincidental. A few of the more quotable examples:
    Jaime Lannister: There are no men like me. There's only me.
    Jon Snow: First lesson: Stick them with the pointy end.
    Eddard Stark: And if you cannot bear to do that, then
    perhaps the man does not deserve to die.
    Ygritte: All men must die, Jon Snow. But first we'll live.
    Jon Snow: The more you give a king, the more he wants.
    Narration: ...and Eddard Stark dreamed of a frozen hell reserved for the Starks of Winterfell.
    Jeor Mormont: The things we love destroy us every time.
    Aeron Greyjoy: No godless man may sit the Seastone Chair.
  • The final chapter of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat suddenly lets loose with: But the river—chill and weary, with the ceaseless rain-drops falling on its brown and sluggish waters, with a sound as of a woman, weeping low in some dark chamber; while the woods, all dark and silent, shrouded in their mists of vapour, stand like ghosts upon the margin; silent ghosts with eyes reproachful, like the ghosts of evil actions, like the ghosts of friends neglected—is a spirit-haunted water through the land of vain regrets. It is not the book’s only Hiawatha parody, but it is the sneakiest.note 

    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.
  • Moonlighting's genre-bending saw a few examples of iambic pentameter, suitably lampshaded.
    • An entire episode consisted of lines in iambic pentameter. For bonus awesome, it was a hilarious parody of The Taming of the Shrew.
    • 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.
      Maddie: How do you do that?
      David: Gotta read a lot of Dr. Seuss.
      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.
      David: Oh.
      Maddie: Time to go.
      David: Time to go.
  • The West Wing:
    • One episode 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:
    • Although probably unintentional, 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
    • The play The Bloody Hand is performed entirely in rhyming meter.
  • 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).
    • Probably accidental, but "Colony in Space" gives us a threat delivered in a dactylic rhyming couplet:
      Then you can stay in your ship 'till you rot. Try to get out, you'll be shot on the spot.
    • 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!
  • While in Sam's body, the angel Gadreel from Supernatural speaks in Iambic Pentameter after his real identity is revealed.
  • Inside No. 9: “Zanzibar” is an homage to Shakespeare’s comedies, so all of the dialogue is in in iambic pentameter.

    Print Media 
  • Found in the "MAD Personal Columns" in an issue of MAD:
    HANDSOME MAN who speaks in rhyme, seeks a gal who's mighty fine. I'm wealthy, smart and 43, but all my friends are sick of me. All I do is speak in verse; I say I'll stop and then get worse. So if you like a man who's dumb, write to me—BOX 41.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Forsooth!: 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 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.
  • William Shakespeare has been known to indulge in this trope:
    • Many of the Bard's loftier plays are written in iambic pentameter, but he lampshades it in As You Like It, where Rosalind amusedly speaks in iambic pentameter with the pretentious Jaques, but immediately lapses into prose upon leaving him and meeting Orlando.
    • Because even Elizabethan prose had a habit of falling into the cadence of iambic pentameter, it's not always clear whether Shakespeare meant certain passages to follow that meter or not. For example, critics and printers have disagreed sharply about whether crucial scenes in King Lear were verse or prose.
  • The play King Charles III, which is set in modern-day England.

    Video Games 
  • Legacy of Kain wouldn't be itself without this.
  • Final Fantasy XII: The Occuria, the immortals that muck about with history, speak, for the most part, in 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.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance: Bastian speaks entirely in iambic pentameter (or what the localizers thought was iambic pentameter at least; he repeatedly gets the syllable stress that's central to it wrong, so he basically just speaks in sets of ten syllables). Elincia also uses it for a Rousing Speech. This reoccurs in Fire Emblem: 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.
  • Halo series:
  • 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 entirely in haiku, unless he's only saying one or two words. No one else is sure why he does so. During his appearance in Tales from the Borderlands, he carries on an ECHO conversation with Moxxi where he appears to speak normally, but if you just take his side of the conversation, you'll notice it still forms a haiku anyway.
    Zer0: My quest is not done.
    Moxxi: My reward for you is gonna be long, hard, and powerful.
    Zer0: Gortys remains out of reach.
    Moxxi: It's a rocket launcher!
    Zer0: Yes. Innuendo. [hangs up and shakes his head in frustration]
  • Kingdom of Loathing features gratuitous haiku, limerick, and anapestic tetrameter.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition:
    • Solas occasionally slips into iambic pentameter, though it's subtle enough to miss if you aren't looking for it. The Inquisitor gains approval from him if they respond in kind.
    • The descriptions in the Twin Daggers ability tree are written in iambic pentameter, and the main abilities rhyme with their upgrades. For example:
      Flank Attack: You leap through shadows to attack your foe with deadly strikes that hit them from behind.
      Skirmisher: Before your target turns to face your blow, you move to stealth, impossible to find.
  • In Faery: Legends of Avalon, Bert talks in rhyming poetry — except when he's confessing to having been sent to spy on you, which makes him too nervous to keep the rhyming up.
  • In Street Fighter V, almost all of Zeku's win quotes are presented in haiku. Capcom dropped this with the Season 4 characters, for whom he gives more normal win quotes (the only one that is even close is the one he gives to E. Honda, but the metric doesn't fit). Also, the win quotes against Blanka and Cody are missing the third verse for some reason.
  • Dragon Quest XI: The inhabitants of the town of Hotto all speak in haiku.
  • In Tangle Tower, you can get information on each of the characters by presenting their profiles to each other. In the case of Poppy, the resident moody, artsy Goth, she will recite brief iambic rhyming poetry about every character except herself.
  • In Spyro: Year of the Dragon everyone in the Spooky Swamp levels speak in Haiku. This even includes characters who aren't native to the level such as Sheila and Moneybags (who complains about having to speak in haiku... In haiku).
  • Nearly every piece of dialogue from the Middle Ages chapter in the remake of Live A Live is written in iambic pentameter, which gives the whole chapter the feel of a play by Shakespeare. Which is a horrific form of Foreshadowing if you know what kind of plays Shakespeare was most known for.

  • xkcd has a strip featuring actual iambic pentameter.
  • Hibachi and the other dragons in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!
  • Questionable Content: Marten gets hired by the university library on the spot when he notices that the application form is written in iambic pentameter.
  • Ozy and Millie once had an iambic penslameter, where they poked fun at each other in iambic pentameter. Then Llewellen showed up and invited them to pie in iambic pentameter, which Ozy declared a coincidence; he always talks like that when baking pie.
  • One of the languages you can view the fancomic Darths & Droids in is "poetry".
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has a subtle but very powerful use at the painfully emotional climax of chapter 30:
    Jeanne: And you, coddled child of that damned place, you come here to mock me with this gleaming heart of yours. This luxury, afforded by my death... it should be mine to take.
  • Planet of Hats uses pentameter exclusively for its spoof of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Conscience of the King", which is about a Shakespearian actor.
  • With Irregular Webcomic! having William Shakespeare as a character, it makes sense that some would appear in-story. But none better than the 419 Scam in iambic pentameter. Behold.

    Web Original 
  • The Tumblr blog Pop Sonnets translated lyrics to well-known songs into Shakespearean sonnets. Sadly, it apparently went inactive in 2016, but not before releasing a book.

    Web Video 
  • 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?
    I hath been iambic on that ass ye bastard
  • 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.
  • Honest Trailers starts off William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet with a regular In a World… narration, but then decides this trope is the only way to do that movie justice.
  • Strong Sad goes on a 'lyric rampage' using Iambic Pentameter in the Strong Bad Email "Rampage". For such a professed lover of poetry, he's really bad at it, forcing trochees into iambs and tacking on an awkward fifth one when he runs out of ideas. He's immediately laughed off the stage by Strong Bad and Coach Z.
    The quill. The page.
    Ly-ric ram-page.
    Umm... Word up?
  • The entire 1619 segment of Door Monster's "A Bat By Any Other Man" video is spoken in Shakespearean verse.

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): I Speak In Meter, Pardon Me Stewardess I Speak Iambic Pentameter