Shakespeare September- Day 5: Sonnet XXIII

As part of #ShakespeareSeptember, I’ll be sharing some of my favourite sonnet at the weekends. I could have started off with the infamous ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ which is one of my favourite sonnets and probably the most well known. But today has been nothing like a summer’s day. It’s been cold. And you know why? Because ‘summer’s lease hath all too short a date’!

Instead, I picked Sonnet XXIII which is about the eyes’ ability to express love and emotion, sometimes better than with words. Moreover, last year I did an essay on absence of the five senses in King Lear, with part of it focusing on the duality of the senses, e.g. speaking with eyes or tasting with sound. And I’ve just realised this sonnet has an amazing last line about this.


Sonnet XXIII:

As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put beside his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart;
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 burthen of mine own love’s might.
O! let my looks be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love, and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.


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