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Tone in Shakespeare's Sonnets

Tone Examples in Shakespeare's Sonnets:

Sonnets 1–10


"So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon:      Unlook'd, on diest unless thou get a son...."   (Sonnets 1–10)

The closing couplets of this sonnet take on a more menacing tone than the previous sonnets. Here, the speaker employs an extended metaphor that likens the fair youth to the sun. Specifically, the speaker says that as the sun rises, “mortals adore” it; when the sun “reeleth from the day,” people look away in search of other beauty. This final couplet warns the fair youth that if he does not have children—metaphorically, if he does not rise like the sun and spread his beauty—he will fade in the same way the sun sets.

"Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd..."   (Sonnets 21–30)

Although Shakespeare's sonnets are all predominantly in iambic pentameter, he frequently breaks the iambic rhythm to emphasize a particular thought or highlight a change of mood. The first words of these two lines, "Wishing" and "Featur'd,” substitute the typical iambs with trochees, metrical feet which place the stress on the first rather than the second syllable. In turn, the speaker changes the tone from one of disillusionment to one of hope and reconciliation.

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