Shakespeare Sonnet 23, As an unperfect actor on the stage

Shakespeare sonnet 23

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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 23. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis.
As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharged with burden of mine own love’s might.
O let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love and look for recompense
More than that tongue that more hath more expressed.
O learn to read what silent love hath writ!
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

Shakespeare Sonnet 23 Analysis

Shakespeare says he is tongue-tied in professing his love for the youth like a novice actor “imperfect actor on the stage”, forgetting his lines “put beside his part”. He compares the same feeling to something fierce “some fierce thing” which when extremely angry “too much rage”, can’t express itself clearly because the anger weakens its heart “weakens his own heart”.

He says that his unconfidence that his love will be returned for “fear of trust” makes him forget how to express love perfectly “perfect ceremony of love’s rite” and though his love is strong “in mine own love’s strength” that same strength overwhelms him and burdens him with the inability to express “burthen of mine own love’s might”

He requests to let his looks and actions of love “let my looks” replace his inability and become a silent sign “dumb presagers” of his heart “of my speaking breast” that begs for love “plead for love” to be returned “look for recompense”. His actions will speak better than his words “More than that tongue”.

He pleads with the youth to learn how to translate his signs of love “learn to read” and read his verse that reflects his love “ love hath writ” saying that the ability to hear his love by reading his love poems “hear with eyes” is the art of true love “to love’s fine wit”

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