Prescanned Shakespeare.com
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About the Scan Marks

The scansion used on this site features eleven different marks.  The marks are explained in greater length in Scansion Made Simple.  This page gives you a quick rundown of them all.

The following two lines include five of the nine marks:

  ,        ,         ,        ___
Jack be | nimble,| Jack be | quick
  ,        ,   2       ,      ___
Jack jump^|over the | candle|stick.

1.  The single accent mark [,] indicates a long syllable.

2.  A vertical bar [|] represents a division between rhythmic units (each unit is called a foot).

3.  A caret [^] indicates that the final sound of a syllable is either muted or spoken with the following syllable.  In this case, the natural pronunciation is jum pover.

4.  A horizontal bar [ _ ] indicates an extended syllable that is longer than long.

5.  Numbers [2] or [3] indicate two or three syllables squeezed into the space of a single short syllable.  When speaking these syllables aloud, they do not need to be spoken more quickly, but there must be no pause between them.

Other marks include:

6.  An asterisk [*] indicates a reduced vowel or r sound.  This mark is not used for every instance of a reduced sound, but is employed only where it might seem more natural for a North American reader to pronounce the sound fully.

            ,        ,       ,      ,          ,
      Whereon | old Nor|way, o|vercome | with joy,
        ,                  ,          ,         ,       ,
      Gives him | three* thou|sand crowns | in an|nual fee,

              ,           ,        ,            ,          ,
      Four* days | will quick|ly steep | themselves | in night;
               ,            ,        ,        ,         ,
      Four* nights | will quick|ly dream | away | the time;

7.  A short stress, in which two short syllables are used to create one stress.  Short stresses are marked with an [x].

  x              ,
Heaven is | my judge

8.  A double foot, in which short and long syllables are grouped with each other instead of alternated, is marked with a forward slash [/].

     ,     ,         ,                ,      ,
The un|discov|ered coun|try from / whose bourne

     A triple foot is marked with a double forward slash [//].

            ,                   ,     ,     ,          ,
      Were no|thing but to // waste night, day | and time.

9.  A double foot in which three long syllables are put together is marked with a [T] (for "triple").

    ,             ,          ,         T     T     T
Checked with | frost and | lusty | leaves quite gone

10.  Pauses are indicated with circles to suggest empty space.  A dot represents a short pause, a single circle a long pause, and a double circle a full-foot pause.

    ,               ,           ,           ,         ,        o
Shifts but | his place,| for still | the world | enjoys | it;

11.  Sometimes a verse line ends early, and is not shared.  These lines could be marked with pauses to complete the lines' lengths, but for visual simplicity they are marked with a double backslash [\\].

     ,        ,    oo   oo   oo
It is,| my lord.|    |    |

    ,        ,
It is,| my lord.  \\

(12).  A final mark, that isn't part of the scansion, is four question marks [????].  These indicate a line that has not yet been solved, and has therefore not been marked with a valid rhythm.  Suggestions for fixing these problem lines are welcomed.


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