What metaphors are used in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 46"?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator


  • Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war How to divide the conquest of thy sight; Mine eye my heart thy picture's sight would bar, My heart mine eye the freedom of that right. My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie-- A closet never pierced with crystal eyes-- But the defendant doth that plea deny And says in him thy fair appearance lies. To 'cide this title is impanneled A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart, And by their verdict is determined The clear eye's moiety and the dear heart's part: As thus; mine eye's due is thy outward part, And my heart's right thy inward love of heart.

This poem mainly relies on metonymy, a figure of speech in which an object (usually a part of a whole) represents something else more global. Thus, a "crown" as a symbol stands for a monarchy or the word "tongue" represents personal expression or even a language. This is particularly the case in the sonnet above, where body parts represent attributes and are even personified. Dominant are allusions to war and even a legal battle.