What are the figures of speech used in William Shakespeare's Sonnet 29?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Personification: Giving objects human qualities or emotions.

  • "trouble deaf heaven"--  Shakespeare describes heaven as being "deaf" which normally would describe a person incapable of hearing.
  • "sullen earth"-- Shakespeare characterizes the earth as being "sullen," to contrast from the joy felt by the lark at the break of day.

Simile:  Comparing two unlike things using like or as.

  • "like to one more rich in hope"--The speaker of the poem wishes to be like someone more optimistic, and in the next line "like him with friends possess'd."  He uses the comparisons to reveal the deprivation felt by the speaker, who does not have either hope or friends.
  • "like to the lark at break of day arising"--The speaker of the poem compares his state to that of the lark in cheeful song; his simile brings in the vivid imagery of the lark as well as introducing a shift in mood of the poem, transitioning from gloomy to optimistic.

 

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andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In the first line of the this poem, Shakespeare uses synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole and vice versa. By stating that he is in disgrace with "men's eyes," he does not mean their eyes only, but their entire selves.

In line three, Shakespeare uses apostrophe by speaking of heaven as if it is a person who is deaf to his cries about his unfortunate situation. This can also be deemed personification since heaven is given a human persona, as if it can respond to his cries.  

In lines five and six, Shakespeare uses similes, which are comparisons between two unlike things, usually using "like" or "as." In this instance, he is comparing himself to one who, he believes, is more fortunate than himself. He wishes to be as blessed as the other person and that he can have what he has, such as friends and good looks.

In line twelve, the speaker describes earth as being "sullen," which is also personification. He means that earth is in a depressed and sulky mood, which is a human characteristic. He is, in fact, describing his own depressed mood and contrasts it with his happy state by using a simile describing himself as a lark, a bird associated with joy and a sense of contentment.

The speaker uses the word "state" as a pun, which is a play on words. It has different connotations throughout the sonnet. In line two, it refers to his situation or condition, while in line 10 he is speaking about his mood. In the final line, "state" refers to his position, which he does not wish to substitute, even with that of kings, since he believes that he is truly fortunate to have in memory a friend who can bring him true love.

Assonance -- the repetition of vowel sounds is also used but is not that prominent. The poet uses assonance in line 3: "deaf heaven," which accentuates the fact that his cries go unheard.

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