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SHAKE?SPEARE?S SONNET 23 Essay, Research Paper

The strength of emotion in Sonnet XXIII effects the poet?s ability to express his love;

therefore, he trusts his poetry–the written word (or possibly the silent language of the

body)–to express love more effectively than his tongue. The strength of the poet?s emotion

is expressed in his fear (?I, for fear of trust?) exemplified in the lack of trust in himself and in

his beloved. Knowing that perfection is difficult or impossible to achieve he attempts and

?forgets to say The perfect ceremony of love’s rite.? However, the poet confirms his love in

subduing the negative emotion of fear by trusting his beloved to “learn to read what silent

love hath writ,?

The first quatrain confirms the impact of strong emotion on effective action. The

poet, ?Who with his fear is put besides his part,? can no longer express himself through his

art (?heart??) due to the emotional inhibitions caused by his fear (?rage?). However, the

poet?s emotional ?strength?s abundance weakens his own heart (?confusion with ?art?,?

according to booth; see pg170 note on sonnet 23. ?Art? could have been seen as a deceptive

force, such as acting or pretending),? exemplified in the ?unperfect actor,? causing the

negation of any thoughts his beloved might have entertained concerning the poet?s ability to

feign love.

The next quatrain expresses the poet?s ?fear of trust? and its effect on his ability to

communicate. The poet talks about ?forget[ing] to say The perfect ceremony of love? rite,

And in [his] own love?s strength seem to decay,? demonstrating his inability to express or

communicate his love when weakened by love?s strength. ?O?ercharged with the ?burden? of

mine own love?s might,? as does ?decay?, symbolizes how fear inhibits the poet from

expressing his love properly (?the perfect ceremony of love? rite?). What is missing in the

poet? Why would the poet be afraid to verbalize love? The poet lacks trust in himself, his

beloved, and in his ability to communicate caused by the fear of possible rejection.

The last quatrain acts as the poet?s hope in expressing his love via the written word

(or possibly through body language), ?O, let [his] ?books? be then the eloquence.? The poet

asks his beloved to read the words he writes with more ?eloquence? than his tongue and

know his love for true, ?More than that tongue that more hath more expressed.? The written

world confirms the poets love through expression, but also alludes to earlier sonnets

regarding the idea of ?love shall in my verse ever live young (sonnet 19.13).?

The word ?books? in the above passage has been amended by many critics to the

word ?looks?. Utilizing this type of play on words gives the last quatrain a sexual undertone

preceded by ?some fierce thing replete with rage (lust).? ?Look? could connect the idea of

reading the love, not only in the written word, but also in the eyes, the breast, and body.

?hear[ing] with the eyes belong[ing] to love?s fine wit.? gives some more unstable evidence

to support the idea of reading ?what silent love has writ? as body language. However, this

hypothesis has not yet been proved and can not be argued as so.

The couplet confirms the poet?s hope of his beloved ?learn[ing] to read what silent

love has writ.? ?To hear with the eyes? figuratively and literally means to hear what is

written in the poet?s words, see what is conveyed in their meaning. It is a part of ?love?s fine


The strength of the poet?s emotion, trust rather than fear, assisted in the poet?s ability

to express his love, if not through the ability of his tongue, then through the true words of his

poetry. Fear began has an impediment but through its negative force, the poet found an

alternative means to express his love, and through trust, found hope in his beloved?s ability

to ?learn what silent love hath writ.? The spoken word will be forgotten, but the written

word defeats the enemy of time.

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