How Shakespeare’s Prolific Use of Iambic Pentameter Shows That He Was English and Not French

In a dialectical episode of The Language Files (previously) written by Gretchen McCulloch of Lingthusiasm, host Tom Scott explains why William Shakespeare could never have been French, as some proclaim, due to his prolific use of iambic pentameter. Scott explains that this particular rhythm to words, known as lexical stress in the English language, does not easily translate to other languages, particularly French.

I’m talking about lexical stress, the stress that’s built into the words that we use. Stress isn’t normally something you have to consider too much while writing, but in English poetry where meter and timing matter, you have to be very careful with it. …Compare that to French, which doesn’t have lexical stress. …In French, by default, stress lands on the last syllable of an utterance.