Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 34: Blank Verse: Hamlet (Excerpt)

by William Shakespeare

lesson image

To be, or not to be- that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die- to sleep.

To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!

    Poetic Forms Poetic Forms    

Lesson 34: Blank Verse: Hamlet (Excerpt)

by William Shakespeare


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the poem each day.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poetic form.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


This lesson features William Shakespeare's famous soliloquy from "Hamlet." "To be or not to be," is a famous line often quoted from Shakespeare. Written in blank verse, the excerpt mostly follows iambic pentameter and the poem does not rhyme.


Poems often adhere to specific poetic forms, defined as 'poems following distinct sets of rules.'

The nine poetic forms we'll study include the:

  1. Sijo: A lyrical Korean poetic form of three long lines.
  2. Haiku: A Japanese poem of three lines and a total of seventeen syllables.
  3. Limerick: A humorous poem of five lines and the rhyming scheme AABBA, typically having syllables of 9–9–6–6–9.
  4. Sonnet: A poetic form of fourteen lines that follow one of a few common rhyming schemes.
  5. Epitaph: A poem honoring the deceased, engraved on a burial marker or tomb.
  6. Acrostic: A poem where particular letter spell out a secret message, often the first letter of each line.
  7. Visual: A poem written in such a way that the lines form a pattern, usually related to the subject-matter of the poem.
  8. Ode: A poem honoring and/or celebrating something or someone.
  9. Blank Verse: A poetic form with regular meter, particularly iambic pentameter, but no fixed rhyme scheme.

Blank verse poems generally follow these rules:

  1. Have a regular meter or rhythm, such as iambic pentameter.
  2. Do not follow a rhyming scheme (e.g. no AABBCC)

Blank verse typically follows iambic pentameter, but other rhythms are possible.

  1. Iambic Pentameter: da-DUM
  2. Trochee (pronounced 'TRO-key'): DUM-da
  3. Anapaest: da-da-DUM
  4. Dactyl: DUM-da-da


Activity 1: Recite the Poem Title, Poet Name, and Poem

  • Each day this week, recite aloud the title of the poem, the name of the poet, and the poem.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem.

Activity 3: Narrate the Poem

  • After reading the poem, narrate the poem concepts aloud using your own words.

Activity 4: Feel the Rhythm

  • Practice reciting the following blank verse rhythms aloud.
  • da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM (Iambic Pentameter)
  • DUM-da, DUM-da, DUM-da, DUM-da, DUM-da (Trochee)
  • da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM (Anapest)
  • DUM-da-da, DUM-da-da, DUM-da-da, DUM-da-da, DUM-da-da (Dactyl)

Activity 5: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 37 of 'Elementary Poetry 6: Poetic Forms.'


  1. 'Iambic Pentameter.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  2. 'Trochee.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  3. 'Anapaest.' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.
  4. 'Dactyl (poetry).' Wikipedia. Wikipedia.org. n.p.