Shakespeare/Sonnet 23 term paper 12634

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This sonnet demonstrates Shakespeare's great ability of playing with words.

According to him a person is tongue-tied when he has either too much or too

little to say. He illustrates his idea by giving an example of an unperfect

actor who forgets his lines on stage and more curiously, some fierce thing whose

heart is weakened by the weight of his own strength. This use of paradox adds

intensity to the sonnet and lays the foundation for the following quatrain. The

first quatrain is like the silence before a storm; the way it is presented

suggests that there is more to come. The actor and the beast are summoned to

serve only as analogues to Shakespeare's double-edged analytical presentation in

quatrain 2 of love's agonized lack of words: So I, for fear of trust, forget to

say The perfect ceremony of love's rite, And in mine own love's strength seem to

decay, O'ercharged with burden of mine own love's might. The persona here

compares him to the characters beckoned in Q1. In a passage such as this, the

distance between the composing author and the fictive speaker almost vanishes,

as it is very easy to imagine that Shakespeare, a master of expression, would

tell himself that a perfect ceremony of love could be invented. Another aspect

worthy of note is the way the phrase mine own love's has been used repeatedly;

in line 7 the persona speaks of the decay of his love and in the very next line

he speaks of its strength. This double stranglehold is an extremely interesting

case, and is beautifully expressed here. The first and second quatrains can be

coupled together as they basically portray the same idea. The sonnet therefore

can be divided into two parts instead of four. An octet followed by a sestet.

While the octet speaks of the persona's tongue-tiedness, the sestet is a plea to

his beloved to understand the depth of his love. 'O, let my books be then the

eloquence / And dumb presagers of my speaking breast…' the persona here wishes

that his writing be the silent and truthful foreteller of all the love in his

heart. Q3, in hinting at the beloved's preference for a rival poet, tongue that

more hath more expressed, ascribes the tongue-tiedness of the speaker to his new

perception of the debased judgment exercised by the beloved. At first, for fear

of trust (line 5) might seem to mean, "fearing my own powers," but

when the unnamed rival enters the scene (line 12), we see the tongue-tiedness

rather as a fear of trusting the potentially faithless beloved. Furthermore, the

verbal parallelism of the octet is replaced by an irregular line-motion as the

persona's agitation achieves full force. The sestet ends with the frustrating

speechlessness of the lover finding a way of talking, by deviating into the

third person in the final line: To hear with eyes belongs to loves fine wit. It

is a proverb coined by the persona and it somewhat negates his inadequacy. It

has a sense of pride and provides a perfect end to the poem.

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