Rhythm is the repetition of a pattern of sounds in poetry. Rhythm is created by the alternation of long and short sounds and stressed and unstressed syllables. There are several different type of units of rhythm in poetry. The one that is most commonly studied and discussed is ambic pentameter. In iambic pentameter, each line of poetry has 10 syllables that alternate in an unstressed, stressed rhythmic pattern.
Sonnets are written in iambic pentameter. Here are a couple of lines from one of Shakespeare's sonnets (stressed syllables are bolded):
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is farmore redthan her lips' red.
"T'was the Night Before Christmas" has a rhythm that is created by using a pattern of two unstressed and one stressed syllable:
T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare creates rhythm in the witches' words by using a pattern of stressed and unstressed (the opposite of iambic pentameter):
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Some poems make use of a combination of these patterns, such as William Blake's "Tyger":
Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
In the forest of the night.
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