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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
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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