Literary Devices in Sonnet 5

Literary Devices Examples in Sonnet 5:

Sonnet 5 3

"Leese..."   (Sonnet 5)

“Leese” means to lose. In this couplet, the speaker argues again for the distillation of beauty. If a flower is distilled it can meet with winter and “still lives sweet.” It loses its “show,” or physical outward appearance, but it does not lose its substance, or the essence of the beauty. Here, the speaker argues that beauty exists outside the physical realm in an idealized space.

"what it was...."   (Sonnet 5)

“What it was” is an ambiguous phrase. By using this question word, Shakespeare simultaneously tells us nothing about the quality of the lost beauty and inspires an image in the reader’s head. By not qualifying the lost beauty with description, the reader must replace the words with their own meaning, or image.

"that unfair which fairly..."   (Sonnet 5)

This serves as an example of a chiasmus, a phrase in which a key word is repeated in a reversed or repurposed form. The play on words depends on two definitions of “fair.” The youth is “unfair” in the sense that his actions are morally unjust. Yet he is also “fair” in the sense that he is beautiful. Indeed, his beauty and his cruelty are inextricably linked.