In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 80, he presents a speaker that reveals his affections and afflictions for a young man about whom Shakespeare often writes. The speaker begins by bringing up a rival poet that he has referred to before in previous sonnets. In the second quatrain, Shakespeare begins his conceit by comparing the speaker and his rival to boats on the young man’s “ocean” (5) of worth. The speaker then acknowledges the possibility that he may be of little worth in the eyes of his beloved when such a comparison is made, or when his words are portrayed side by side with those of a superior poet. Shakespeare presents his turn in line thirteen and ends the sonnet with a concluding couplet which captures the essence of the hopelessness that will be felt by the speaker if indeed his rival succeeds in winning the young man’s affection. Through the analysis of Sonnet 80, it can be deduced that Shakespeare uses extended metaphor to exaggerate and emphasize the doubts and desperation felt by the speaker as he compares himself to the other poets who are attempting to capture the attention of his love, which in their success, would end in his demise.
The first quatrain is used by William Shakespeare as a way of setting up the sonnet. The speaker’s feelings toward the young man is made clear from the very first line, “O how I faint when I of you do write” (1). He has become weak at heart while writing about the man he admires. This line follows iambic pentameter, often used by Shakespeare, and in this case, it has an almost graceful effect to it that connects well with the romantic tone that emits from the speaker as he writes for the young man. As the speaker continues on to the second line, this gracefulness ...
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...emains even in this final part of the sonnet with the words “cast away”, much like nets are cast away from ships or words are “cast away” from the mouths of poets. And as the speaker moves to the final line, he succeeds in being seen as a hopeless lover by the reader. Line 14, “the worst was this: my love was my decay” captures the complete essence of every emotion the speaker is enduring throughout the sonnet. The use of a caesura by Shakespeare, allows the weight of the portrayed emotion to settle in the heart and mind of the reader. Regardless of the nagging frustration that his rivaling poet and his superior works cause, the speaker refuses to be silenced. Furthermore, it is not the battle with his opponent that ruins the speaker; yet, it is the love that he feels that causes him the most pain and will surly result in his ultimate decay or utter destruction (OED).
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