presented by Acoustic Learning

On this site you will find the complete works of William Shakespeare— pre-scanned.

Shakespeare wrote primarily in verse.  Verse is language arranged into rhythmic patterns, such as

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended.

Scanning is the process of finding a verse's rhythm.  To find the rhythm of a verse, you scan through its lines, and you figure out which syllables are long (or "stressed") and which are short (or "unstressed").  Once you have scanned the lines, you make marks to indicate the syllables' lengths.  A system of marks that show a scanned rhythm is called scansion.  The purpose of marking scansion is to make rhythm visible.

 ,       ,          ,      ,
If we | shadows | have of|fended,
  ,           ,         ,        ,
Think but | this and | all is | mended.

The scansion used on this site is derived from the work of Edgar Allan Poe.  Poe explained verse rhythm in his essay "The Rationale of Verse," and the foundations of his theory have now been used to create Scansion Made Simple, an easy-to-read instruction manual that explains how to analyze the rhythmical patterns of verse.

All of the sonnets are scanned, but we are still working on the plays.  Those plays which have been scanned are indicated in the menus above by a checkmark (✔).  Each new item will be posted as it is scanned, until every play and every poem is featured on this site.

These scans are not meant to be "authoritative," because there are many different ways to scan the same texts.  Rather, they are offered as examples of how each text may be naturally spoken and still be rhythmical.

Please read further about how the scansion is applied in these texts or about how to interpret the marks.  Feel free to write eartraining [a]t aruffo d[ot] com if you have any questions!