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Suffering in Shakespeare’s Works Essay

The prominent metaphor used throughout Shakespeare’s sonnets and “Twelfth Night” is the comparison of love to suffering. This metaphor is brought up many times in “Twelfth Night” by different characters which exaggerate the suffering caused by love. Most of the sonnets written by Shakespeare compare love to suffering, but the sonnet that exemplifies it the most is sonnet 147. These two works written by Shakespeare are similarly connected through word choice to set up the metaphor of love as a painful experience.

“Twelfth Night” is a romantic comedy, and even though the play ends with almost all characters happy, Shakespeare demonstrates just how painful love can be. This suffering that different characters experience is either from being in love or unrequited love. At one point during the play Orsino compares his love for Olivia as an “appetite” (I.i.1–3) that he can never fully satisfy while later he describes his desire for her as “fell of cruel hounds” (I.i.21). This word choice chosen by Shakespeare provides the reader with a clear metaphor that love within this play is viewed as cruel. Furthermore Olivia describes her love as a “plague” (i.v.265), that word carries a negative connotation that cannot be construed in any way to be positive. All of these metaphors are continued throughout the play by varies characters all complaining about their sufferings with words pertaining to a degree of violence. Similarly in Shakespeare’s sonnets the metaphor of love as being cruel and painful can be seen with his particular word choice.

The opening line of Sonnet 147 sets the mood for the entire poem with comparison of love to sickness thus continuing the metaphor of love as a dreadful experience. Comparing love to a “fever” that is “longing still” (1), Shakespeare creates a discouraging outlook of unrequited love. Furthermore it continues with accusing the unnamed recipient of “Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill” (3). Not only is Shakespeare complaining about being in love without reciprocation, but he blames the unnamed person for his sickness. This metaphor of love being torturous is continued throughout the rest of the sonnet, ending on a very morbid couplet “For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright, / Who art as black as hell, as dark as night” (13-14). The word choice of the couplet shows the pessimistic view of unrequited love, thus clearly indicating the extended metaphor of suffering while in love.

Love described by Shakespeare is a terrible sickness that no one should have to endure, which is typically not the mindset of most people when they think about love. However, given the context in which Shakespeare wrote these two works, it is clear that he was bitter because of his own personal unrequited love from a woman. This unrequited love is portrayed in almost all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, however Sonnet 147 described the most dark and miserable aspects of love. “Twelfth Night” portrays the suffering of love through word choice similarly to Shakespeare’s sonnets; however in the end all the confusion sorts itself out unlike Sonnet 147. The extended metaphors within these two pieces express the emotional suffering of unrequited love as written by William Shakespeare.


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