Mr Kinnear’s goal is to make the iambic pentameter seem as vernacular as artificial.

I'm confused about the meaning of the bold part of the sentence from an article. Does it mean that Mr Kinnear wanted to make it sound like something vernacular and artificial?

  • We get a lot of questions here about the "as ____ as ____" construction. I wonder if we should have a canonical reference or resource for it.
    – stangdon
    Mar 22, 2018 at 14:46
  • Here is one reference: dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/… - although I'm not sure it really addresses this usage.
    – stangdon
    Mar 22, 2018 at 14:47
  • I suspect it means he wants it to seem as vernacular (using commonplace, natural language) as it seems artificial (crafted, not natural, which Shakespeare can certainly seem). In other words, Shakespeare uses a lot of high-flown oratory, but Kinnear can make it feel like everyday speech. He "tames" the beast.
    – Robusto
    Mar 22, 2018 at 14:49
  • Can you clarify your understanding of the words "iambic pentameter", "vernacular" and "artificial"?
    – James K
    Mar 22, 2018 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


We can start with the assumption that iambic pentameter already seems artificial, at least to some degree.  In simple fact, it is artificial.  Of course, the degree to which it seems artificial might be different than the degree to which it truly is artificial.  Given that, we can paraphrase as follows: 

Mr Kinnear’s goal is to make the iambic pentameter seem vernacular to the same degree that it seems artificial. 

I take this to mean that Mr. Kinnear wants to make his lines sound like the character's natural speech and like the poetry that it is.  He wants both effects at equal strength, probably so that neither effect hides the other.

  • I think you've got the meaning. I've seen a high school drama club try their best to put on a Shakespearian play. I remember how most of the iambic pentameter seemed very forced and artificial, and not natural at all. Making Shakespearian verse roll off the tongue like everyday speech is no easy accomplishment, and therein lies the gist of what this sentence is trying so say.
    – J.R.
    Mar 22, 2018 at 18:25

Consider these basic sentences and the third sentence:

The man is rich. [has a level of wealth]
The man is stupid. [has a level of stupidity]

Since both those levels are the same, we can write:

The man is as rich as he is stupid.

In other words, his richness is on the same level as his stupidity.

Another example:

The poem seems difficult. [is not easy to understand]
The poem seems funny. [makes you laugh]

Since those qualities have equal importance, we can write:

The poem is as difficult as it is funny.

"Mr Kinnear’s goal is to make the iambic pentameter seem as vernacular as artificial."

The iambic pentameter seems vernacular.
The iambic pentameter seems artificial.

Those two qualities are on the same level.

Please note: as [adjective] as [adjective] is used to give equal importance to two different states or qualities of two adjectives describing a thing.

vernacular means iambic pentameter seems like everyday language.
artificial means iambic pentameter seems made-up, not occurring naturally.

Please also note: When two adjectives describe something so that they are "complete opposites" (the cold sun, the hot moon, the dry sea), we say that is an oxymoron.

There is the suggestion here of that.

Here is a iambic pentameter, which is one of the most well-known verse forms in English:

Definition of Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is the name given to a line of verse that consists of five iambs (an iamb being one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed, such as "before"). It has been a fundamental building block of poetry in English, used in many poems by many poets from the English Renaissance to the present day.

Here is an example of it (you have to read it out loud to feel it):

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

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