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Essay On The Artful Paradox Of Sonnet 66

554 words - 2 pages

In sonnet 66, Shakespeare creates a paradoxical difficulty for himself as a poet. As Helen Vendler points out, the censorship described in line 9 necessitates an absence of art from the poem (309-10), yet coevally Shakespeare must keep the reader interested. He straddles this problem by speeding the tempo, creating questions in the reader’s mind, and representing intense emotions-- all through apparently artless techniques.

Most obtrusively, both sound technique and constant end-stoppage speed this poem’s tempo in an apparently craft less way. The sound techniques of sonnet 66 jingle horridly, fulfilling the requirement of artlessness, yet they also speed the tempo, preventing the reader from becoming bored with the poem. Vendler points to the presence of tri and quadrisyllabic rhymes as particular errors (310), but such sound repetition rushes the reader through the poem. Alliteration, as in "beggar born" (2) and "needy nothing" (3); assonance as in "I cry" (1) and "And captive" (12); and consonance as in "and gilded" (5) achieve the same end, though with less apparent craftessness.

Somewhat less intrusively, Shakespeare end-stops every line with a comma, period, or colon. This creates choppiness. The staccato tone, however, increases the tempo, while lending more power to each line of an otherwise dreary catalogue of woe. Each line stands on its own and punches the reader to attention.

Still less obtrusive than any of these-- but more important in keeping the reader interested-- Shakespeare’s use of gradually decreasing vagueness plants questions in the reader’s mind. The poem begins "Tired with all these. . ." (1), causing the reader to wonder what "these" stands for, a question Shakespeare spends the next eleven lines answering. These...

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