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Motif of Sleep in Shakespeare's Sonnet XXVII
In William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 27”, a motif that can be followed throughout the poem is that of sleep and weariness. This motif is used to reinforce the theme of the entire sonnet: that the speaker cannot sleep due to thoughts of his lover.
The speaker’s diction supports the theme of work and toil. Words like “zealous”, “drooping”, “repose”, “haste”, and “expired” illustrate the weariness that the speaker is feeling, and help to give significance to the fact that he can not sleep.
Although the speaker is so very tired, “... my thoughts, from far where I abide, intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee ...,” when the speaker describes the thought of his lover as one that “Makes black night beauteous and her old face new,” the reader knows that the weariness of the speaker is not aggravated by these thoughts, they are positive.
“.. . By day my limbs, by night my mind, for thee and for myself no quiet find.” This line is a summation of the problems faced by the speaker. From working hard all day long to only be faced with thoughts of his lover at night is torturous, and the reader can’t help but get a feeling that the speaker is obsessed.
This sonnet is so unique due to the fact that it is a simple love poem made so subtle due to a lack of mention of the actual lover. The words “thee” and “thy” appear only three times in the poem. Shakespeare has once again captured a feeling so overused in poems and stories in a fresh and original way that wins over audiences to this day.
1.....Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
2.....The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
3.....But then begins a journey in my head,
4.....To work my mind, when body's work's expired:
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6.....Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
7.....And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
8.... Looking on darkness which the blind do see
9.....Save that my soul's imaginary sight
10...Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
11...Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
12...Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
13...Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
14...For thee and for myself no quiet find.