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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.

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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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,Personification

Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand.Metaphor & Personification

To be so tickled they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,Catachresis
Making dead wood more blest than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.Ellipsis, Hyperbaton & Zeugma

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, which yet are green.
Ah, yet doth beauty, like a dial hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceived;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceived.
For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.
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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;
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
And says in him thy fair appearance lies.
AphaearsisTo ’cide this title is impanelèd
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart,
And by their verdict is determinèd
The clear eyes’ moiety and the dear heart’s part,
As thus: mine eyes’ due is thy outward part,
EllipsisAnd my heart’s right, thy inward love of heart.Personification
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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;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me.
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead,
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be rememberèd.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.

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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,Metaphor

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.Litotes

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Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

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Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?Rhetorical Question
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,Metaphor & Hyperbaton
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;Personification
And every fair from fair sometime declines,Antanaclesis
By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fadeMetaphor
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall Death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,Personification
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.Anaphora and Anadiplosis