illustrated portrait of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare

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Please provide a summary of Sonnet 23 by William Shakespeare and decode the metaphor of the actor.

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William Shakespeare's Sonnet 23 begins with two opposing similes to illustrate the speaker's failure to declare his love. The sonnet has a neat and decisive turn from the octave to the sestet and another, more minor, turn at the couplet.

The opening image is quintessentially Shakespearean, drawn from...

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William Shakespeare's Sonnet 23 begins with two opposing similes to illustrate the speaker's failure to declare his love. The sonnet has a neat and decisive turn from the octave to the sestet and another, more minor, turn at the couplet.

The opening image is quintessentially Shakespearean, drawn from the poet's own profession. The speaker compares himself to an actor who has stage fright and forgets his part. The second comparison is less obvious. He is like a wild beast, too full of rage to do anything decisive.

The speaker applies these two comparisons to himself, describing his love as a great burden he cannot lay down. Then comes the turn: since he cannot speak his love, he must write it, and the Fair Youth must employ "love's fine wit" to read and understand his passion.

The simile of the actor is relatively simple, since the comparison between an actor who is stricken with stage fright and a lover who is tongue-tied in the presence of the beloved is apt and clear. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this simile is its brevity. Shakespeare excels in extended similes and could easily have drawn this one out over the entire sonnet, or a large part of it, instead of which it occupies only the first two lines.

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