D.Gregory Griffith wrote:

>I'm a bit uncomfortable with "shirt" receiving no stress.
>What do you think of this as a possibility:
>_     _  /        _ _       /     /            _   /
>The intol     era       ble shirt      of flame
>It does technically depart from the meter, or change its identity
>as you put it in a previous post,  and it offers two less frequently
>used feet in English--a pyrrhic followed by a spondee--and one
>after the other seems very rare indeed, but no possibility seems
>absolute to me at this point, so I'm experimenting.
>>    ~    ~  /  ~  ~   /    ~     /
>>    The intolerable shirt of flame     [MSK]

Dear Greg,
    I have a stress on shirt.  Let me write it without the marks:

The inTOL(e)rable SHIRT of FLAME

Except for your counting the shwa in our problem word, we concur.
    I don't view formal descriptions as having the same authority as you
do.  That is, I care very much about prosody, but rely on my ear first,
always in terms of speech rhythms.  Formal descriptions are for me, just
that, descriptions, not prescriptions.
    I am with you in hearing stress as relative to surrounding stress.
 I like very much Wimsatt and Beardsley's hypothesis that our iambic
pentameter line is the result of a promotion of a strong unstressed
syllable in alliterative (four-beat) verse to a weak stressed one in ip.
 Here are three scansions I've collected of one line.  I've put the
stress in the line, following the pertinent syllable.  That should cut
down on having to re-send.  Notice in Abercrombie's that the pause gets
a beat.  Notice, too, that each of them ends the line \--\-.

    To be/, or not/ to be, that/ is the ques/tion
                    [Northrop Frye]
    To be/ or not/ to be, / that/ is the ques/tion
                    [David Abercrombie]
    To be/ or not/ to be/, that/ is the ques/tion
                    [W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley]

I find each of them credible.  You?