Identify the literary terms in the Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare.

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Note the use of alliteration in the third line, with the two words "shall shine." This is something that is used in various places in this sonnet, for example in "wasteful war." You might like to find other examples of alliteration in this sonnet, as it is one of the easiest literary terms to discover.

You also might like to consider the following example of imagery that describes the tombs that will be outlived by the sonnet the speaker writes:

But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.

There is a powerful image in the way in which "time" is personified as a character who is "sluttish" and "besmears" the tombs around her with her mess. The description helps to build up a powerful contrast with the person this sonnet is addressed to, who will "shine" compared to the dull and dirty tombs that time sullies.

You might like to try and analyse the poem by yourself now, and see if you can find any other examples of literary terms. I hope that now I have identified some for you as examples, you can do this for yourself. Good luck!

jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In Sonnet 55, there are several examples of alliteration, which refers to starting words that are close to each other with the same sound. For example, there is alliteration in the first line, "Not marble nor the gilded monuments," as "marble" and "monuments" start with "m." Later examples of alliteration include "princes" and "powerful" in the second line, "shall shine" in the third line, and "wasteful war" in line five. There are also several examples of assonance, or the repetition of vowel sounds within words that are close to each other; "shine more bright" is an example of assonance. There are also examples of personification, in which inanimate objects have human capacities. For example, Shakespeare writes that monuments cannot outlive his verse as if monuments were alive, and the praise of the subject about which Shakespeare writes will make room for itself in future years as if it were alive. 


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