Subtle Poetic Reference You May Have Missed in The Sandman

The sixth episode of Netflix’s The Sandman takes viewers back in time. In the second half, the episode follows Tom Sturridge’s Dream after he decides to try and reunite with Hob Gadling (Ferdinand Kingsley), an immortal man he has met every 100 years for the past few centuries. As he tries to find him in the present day, The Sandman goes back in time to show all the conversations Dream and Hob had over the years.

During their third meeting, Dream overhears a conversation between two playwrights, one of whom is named Will Shaxbird (Samuel Blenkin). The latter character is, of course, an interpretation of the series by William Shakespeare, whose surname was sometimes spelled “Shaksbeard” during his lifetime (via Story). Dream, having heard of Shaxbird’s desire to write great plays, approaches him and asks if he really wants to “create new dreams to stimulate people’s minds”.

The scene was taken directly from Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman comic series, but its inclusion in the Netflix adaptation has some fans learning a funny detail about it for the first time. One viewer even accepted Twitter admit that they had just realized that the first conversation between Dream and Shaksbeard was written entirely in iambic pentameter, that is, the rhythm structure that Shakespeare often used in his poems and plays.

Using this style results in each line consisting of five iambic stops, which are essentially pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables. Many of Shakespeare’s most famous lines are in iambic pentameter, including “Shall I compare you to a summer’s day?” (by using Shakespeare without sweat).

The Sandman detail in question has been confirmed Twitter Gaiman himself, who responded to the aforementioned fan’s tweet by simply writing, “Big smile.”

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