Poem Activity

British Library


As an unperfect actor on the stage…


Poem Activity

Have fun with the poem by trying this...

Watch the actress Niamh McGrady (you may know her from ‘Holby City’) reciting sonnet 23. Notice how the poem ‘turns’ on line 9. This beautifully constructed, eloquent poem is, in part, about being rendered inarticulate and even speechless by a powerful, passionate, all consuming love.

Modern English Original spelling

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As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put beside 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 burthen of mine own love’s might.

O! let my looks 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 express’d.

O! learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

AS an vnperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his feare is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing repleat with too much rage,
Whose strengths abondance weakens his owne heart;
So I for feare of trust, forget to say,
The perfect ceremony of loues right,
And in mine owne loues strength seeme to decay,
Ore-charg’d with burthen of mine owne loues might:
O let my books be then the eloquence,
And domb presagers of my speaking brest,
Who pleade for loue, and look for recompence,
More then that tonge that more hath more exprest.
O learne to read what silent loue hath writ,
To heare with eies belongs to loues fine wit.