What literary devices are used in Act IV of William Shakspeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in the speech by Titania that begins "Sleep thou" and ends "I dote on thee"?
In Act 4, scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ttitania, the queen of the faeries, has fallen in love with a comical commoner named Bottom, who has been literally turned into an ass by Puck. When Bottom expresses a desire to sleep, Titania dismisses the fairies while addressing him by saying,
Sleep thou, and I will wind thee in my arms.
Fairies, begone, and be all ways away.
So doth the woodbine the sweet honeysuckle
Gently entwist; the female ivy so
Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.
O, how I love thee! how I dote on thee!
This passage contains a number of literary devices, including the following:
- alliteration in the first line, in the “th” of “thou” and “thee” and in the “w” of “will wind.”
- assonance in the first line in the long “i” sound of “I,” “wind,” and “my.”
- a combination of assonance and alliteration in the second line in “begone” and “be.”
- a play on words in the similar sounds of “ways away.”
- imagery of vegetation in the third, fourth, and fifth quoted lines.
- a simile (indicated by the presence of “so”) in the third quoted line. A second simile is indicated by “so” once again at the end of the fourth quoted line.
- metrical emphasis on the first syllable of the third and fourth quoted lines, since those first syllables are accented, whereas normally the second syllable would have been accented.
- metrical regularity in the fifth quoted line, which uses straight iambic pentameter rhythm after the metrical irregularity of the two preceding lines. In an iambic pentameter line, there are ten syllables, and the even syllables are accented, as here: “Enrings the barky fingers of the elm.”
- metaphor in the phrase “barky fingers,” which compares the branchings of an elm tree to the fingers of a human hand.
- repetition and balanced syntax in the two phrases beginning with “how” in the final quoted line.
- balanced syntax (that is, sentence structure), in the third through fifth quoted lines; the balance is emphasized by the presence of the semicolon. The phrase that comes before the semicolon is similar in structure to the phrase that follows it.