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Sonnets

In addition to the 154 sonnets Shakespeare wrote independent of his plays, some of which are listed below, he also wrote a number of sonnets within his plays. For example, four sonnets appear in Romeo and Juliet.  To view some of the sonnets which appear in plays, click here.

Beatrice’s Sonnet

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Beatrice closes Act 3 scene 1 of Much Ado About Nothing, speaking a sonnet.* Shakespeare occasionally used sonnets in his plays, for example, in Romeo and Juliet and Richard III, which were examined in previous essays. He didn’t insert these sonnets arbitrarily. He intended to achieve particular effects,
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The Architecture of Sonnet and Song

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Let’s begin by stipulating that Ira Gershwin is not William Shakespeare. However, despite the gulf that separates their talents, they share some writing techniques that are useful tools for aspiring writers. For example, Shakespeare’s sonnet, That Time of Year, and Gershwin’s song, They Can’t Take That Away from Me*, are variations on a common template,
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Better Angels

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The only mention in any of Shakespeare’s plays of the “better angel” is in Othello (5.2.235), when Gratiano, speaking over Desdemona’s body, speaks of her father:

Did he live now,
This sight would make him do a desperate turn,
Yea, curse his better angel from his side,

Shakespeare makes another mention of the “better angel”
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Plagiarizing Himself

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Shakespeare often reused images and metaphors, stealing from himself. The simile in Friar Lawrence’s musing from Romeo and Juliet,

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.

is echoed in the metaphor of the third quatrain of  Sonnet 73.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
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Richard III and the Sonnet

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“Now is the winter of our discontent” is nearly as familiar as Hamlet’s, “To be, or not to be” and Mark Antony’s, “Friends, Romans, countrymen”. Not one of these three passages is a dramatic dialogue. Mark Antony addresses a large Roman crowd in an extended speech. Hamlet muses to himself in a soliloquy while we the audience listen in.
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Sonnets in Romeo and Juliet

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Shakespeare, who had begun writing his sonnets sometime in the 1590’s, decided that the form would be useful in Romeo and Juliet. In fact, he wrote four sonnets in the play. The first, spoken by a chorus, opens Act 1. The second appears in Act 1, Scene 5, and it is dialogue spoken by Romeo and Juliet.
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Ah, Luciana, did he tempt thee so?

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Adriana
Ah, Luciana, did he tempt thee so?
 Might’st thou perceive austerely in his eye
That he did plead in earnest, yea or no?
 Looked he or red or pale, or sad or merrily?
What observation mad’st thou in this case
Of his heart’s meteors tilting in his face?

He is deformèd, crooked, old, and sere,
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Act 4
Scene 2
Line 1

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Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come

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Hero
Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come,
As we do trace this alley up and down,
Our talk must only be of Benedick.
When I do name him, let it be thy part
To praise him more than ever man did merit.

What fire is in mine ears?

My talk to thee must be how Benedick
Is sick in love with Beatrice.
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How oft, when thou, my music, music play’st

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How oft, when thou, my music, music play’stAnastrophe, Antanaclasis, Epizeuxis & Metaphor
Upon that blessèd wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,Anastrophe & Synecdoche
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,

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To me, fair friend, you never can be old

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To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I eyed,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned,
Since first I saw you fresh,

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Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war

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Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
How to divide the conquest of thy sight.
EpanadosMine eye my heart thy picture’s sight would bar,
EllipsisMy heart mine eye the freedom of that right.
My heart doth plead that Conceitthou in him dost lie,
A closet never pierced with crystal eyes;
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But be contented when that fell arrest

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But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,Ambage

My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee.
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
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Let me not to the marriage of true minds

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Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.Synecdoche
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove.Polyptoton

O, no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

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