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Rhyme Scheme, Rhythm, and Meter Relax, your ears already know what you’re about to learn! Words in this presentation that are hyperlinked will lead you to definitions you might not know. To have slides read aloud, click on the speaker. 1
Rhyme SchemeStudents often have trouble with rhyme scheme because of the word“scheme.” Outside of literature, one meaning of “scheme” is a plan forcheating or getting something illegally. Example: The gang’s scheme for breaking into the museum included disguises, a getaway car, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts to distract the guard.“Scheme,” though, has another definition: a system of things or anarrangement. Example: The scheme for the irrigation system included pop-up sprinklers, drip lines, and misters.It’s the second definition that applies to “rhyme scheme.” When youthink of “rhyme scheme,” think “rhyme arrangement.” 2
Understanding Rhyme SchemeFinding the rhyme scheme is easy.Read the poem to the right. Notice “Sonnet 65” by William Shakespeare*the coloring of the words at the endsof the lines. All the words at the ends 1. Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,of the lines that have the same sound 2. But sad mortality oer-sways their power,are shaded the same color. 3. How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, 4. Whose action is no stronger than a flower? 5. O, how shall summers honey breath hold outNow, if you were taking a test and 6. Against the wreckful siege of battering days,asked to show the rhyme scheme of 7. When rocks impregnable are not so stout,this sonnet, you’d have to get out 8. Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?crayons or highlighters to show rhymescheme this way. That’s not practical. 9. O fearful meditation! where, alack, There is an easier way to show rhyme 10. Shall Times best jewel from Times chest lie hid?scheme using the alphabet. 11. Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back? 12. Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? 13. O, none, unless this miracle have might, 14. That in black ink my love may still shine bright. *For a translation of this sonnet into modern English click here: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/65detail.html 3
Showing Rhyme Scheme Use the alphabet to show rhyme “Sonnet 65” by William Shakespeare scheme, instead of using colors. Give every rhyme the same letter.1. Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea, 1. A If you were given the question,2. But sad mortality oer-sways their power, 2. B “What is the rhyme scheme of this poem and is it regular or3. How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, 3. A irregular?” you’re answer would4. Whose action is no stronger than a flower? 4. B look like this:5. O, how shall summers honey breath hold out 5. C • The rhyme scheme of this poem is6. Against the wreckful siege of battering days, 6. D ABABCDCDEFEFGG. It7. When rocks impregnable are not so stout, 7. C is a regular rhyme scheme because the first and third8. Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays? 8. D line of each quatrain9. O fearful meditation! where, alack, 9. E rhyme, as do the second and fourth. The final10. Shall Times best jewel from Times chest lie hid? 10. F couplet also rhymes.11. Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back? 11. E You might be saying to yourself,12. Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? 12. F “OK, I get rhyme scheme, but what good does it do me?” The13. O, none, unless this miracle have might, 13. G answer, dear friend, is on the14. That in black ink my love may still shine bright. 14. G next slide. 4
What’s the Point of Rhyme Scheme? “Sonnet 65” by William Shakespeare Think of rhyme scheme as a secret code that will help you unlock the poet’s meaning.Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea, Shakespearean sonnets all follow the same 1. A form:But sad mortality oer-sways their power, 2. B • Each has 14 lines.How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, • There are 3 quatrains that express 3. A related ideas.Whose action is no stronger than a flower? 4. B • There is the ending couplet that sums up the author’s point or makes aO, how shall summers honey breath hold out 5. C conclusion.Against the wreckful siege of battering days, 6. D • The rhyme scheme is almost always the same.When rocks impregnable are not so stout, 7. C The first quatrain (4 lines) points out that hardNor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays? objects and even the sea are changed over 8. D time.O fearful meditation! where, alack, 9. E The second quatrain gives more examples, such as sweet summer air, rocks, and steel,Shall Times best jewel from Times chest lie hid? 10. F that decay over time.Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back? 11. E In the third quatrain he wonders how beauty can hide from Time.Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? 12. F In the couplet, he hopes that this black ink—O, none, unless this miracle have might, 13. G this sonnet—will preserve his partner’s beauty.That in black ink my love may still shine bright. 14. G 5
“I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Music….” Part 1If you caught the allusion in the title of this card, you’re either older than most high schoolstudents or are a fan of Ethel Merman or Broadway musicals.Rhythm is the musical quality of language produced by repetition, especially in poetry (alsocalled “verse”). Many literary elements create rhythm, including alliteration, assonance,consonance, meter, repetition, and rhyme.Meter is a generally regular pattern of stressed ( / ) and unstressed ( ) syllables in poetryor verse. Just as we can measure distance in meters, we can measure the beats in apoem in meter.Let’s say that you’re good at music and that I’m not. I want you to create some music forme with a certain beat. This is the beat that I want: lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUBIt would get irritating after a while to have to keep saying “lub-DUB” every time I wanted toask you to use this rhythm. There’s got to be an easier way. There is! Just go to the nextslide. 6
“I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Music….” Part 2In the beat below, notice that there are five different measures or units to it. 1 2 3 4 5 lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUBEach unit or measure is made of two separate beats. That means that the whole line has10 total beats (5 x 2 = 10). The first beat is softer than the second beat. I can use markingsto show the softer and harder (unaccented and accented) beats. lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUB lub-DUBSometimes, though, I’m going to want you to reverse the beat: DUB-lub DUB-lub DUB-lub DUB-lub DUB-lubStill, having to do all those markings would take time. Too bad there isn’t an easier way totalk about beats. There is! I could name them. I could name them anything I want. I couldname lub-DUB “Fred,” and DUB-lub “Barney.” However, if everyone didn’t use the samenames to represent the same beats, it would get confusing. Well, these beats do havenames, as you will see on the next slide. 7
“I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Music….” Part 3“Iamb” is the name of the meter lub-DUB as in the word convince. Notice that each syllablemust be marked.“Trochee” is the name of the meter DUB-lub as in the word borrow.Other types of meter have their own names, too: “Anapest” is the name of the meter lub-lub-DUB as in the world contradict. “Dactyl” is the name of the meter DUB-lub-lub as in the word accurate. “Spondee” is the name of the meter DUB-DUB as in the word seaweed. There are lots of other names for different meters, but that’s enough for now.If a poem mostly has iambs, it is called “iambic.” Have you learned that Shakespeare wrotemost of his plays and poems in iambic pentameter? The next slide will tell you what thatterm means. 8
“I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Music….” Part 4“Iamb” is the name of the meter lub-DUB as in the word convince. Notice thateach syllable must be marked.“Pentameter” begins with the prefix “pent,” which refers to the number 5 (e.g.,pentagram and pentagon). The root word “meter” refers to measurement.Something in “iambic pentameter” has five measures of lub-DUB. Example: But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?Read the above line aloud and put more stress on the syllables with the accentmarks.If you’re not sure if you’ve identified the meter in a line of poetry correctly,reverse the accented and unaccented syllables and then read it aloud. If itsounds wrong, you were right the first time. Give it a try with the line above.Stress the syllables with the unaccented marks. It should sound strange. 9
“I’ve Got Rhythm, I’ve Got Music….” Part 5How does understanding meter help you understand a poem? If the meter isvery simple, like that in a children’s book, that will help you know that themessage or theme of the poem is probably humorous. A complicated metermight indicate a more complicated theme.Just as a poet might change the rhyme scheme for a specific purpose, a changein meter might indicate that the poet is trying to change the topic or make someother type of transition. Shakespeare usually had his noble characters (e.g.,kings, queens, generals, etc.) speak in iambic pentameter, but his lowercharacters (e.g., servants and peasants) would speak in regular language.If you’re wondering why Shakespeare chose to write in iambs, maybe it’sbecause the iamb is the rhythm of the heart beat! 10
Definitions Click on the hyperlinks to return to the slide you were reading.Alliteration = the repeating of the same or very similar consonant sounds usually at the beginnings of wordsthat are close together Examples: Betty Botta bought some butter. “But,” said she, “this butter’s bitter.”Allusion = a reference to a person, place, event, or thing from history, literature, sports, religion, mythology,politics, etc. to make a point Example: “I had a terrible game today. I shot like Shaq.” This is an allusion because if the listener knows who Shaq is and how poorly he shoots free throws, then the listener will know just how bad the speaker is.Assonance = the repeating of similar vowel sounds followed by different consonant sounds in words thatare close together Example: An abbot on an ambling pad….Consonance = the repeating of final consonants after different vowel sounds in words that are closetogether Examples: East and west dug the dog…Couplet = two adjacent lines of poetry that rhymeQuatrain = a group of four lines unified by rhyme schemeRepetition = the repeating of any words, phrases, or soundsRhyme End Rhyme = the repeating of similar vowel sounds at the ends of lines Example: I don’t think I will ever see A sight as lovely as a tree. Internal Rhyme = the repeating of similar vowel sounds within lines Examples: The cat in the hat sure got fat off mice and rice. 11