Poetry Analysis- Shakespeare

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Accomplished authors are adept at using rhetorical devices to express the inner thoughts and complex emotions of their characters. Implemented successfully, these devices can serve as a remarkable conduit of the character’s tangibility, making them seem relatable and realistic as in William Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. In the selected passage, from the aforementioned play, the titular king has just discharged his advisor, Cardinal Wolsey. Wolsey’s subsequent soliloquy served to reveal his resentment and despair over his dismissal. Shakespeare’s skilled use of religious allusions, strong diction, and figurative language reveal the extent of Wolsey’s lamentation.

Shocked at his misfortune, Wolsey initially bemoans his demoted status and bitterly mocks his downfall as “a long farewell to all my greatness!” In his anger Wolsey belittles the world as “vain” and “a killing frost”, eventually exclaiming “I hate ye!” His hostile eruptions are juxtaposed with the shifts to despair that Wolsey experiences through his speech. His self-characterization as a downtrodden “poor man” is a change from the ambitious “good easy man” he describes himself as at the beginning of the passage. This woeful description of himself illustrates Wolsey’s miserable disposition. He furthers the piteous self-derision when he likens himself to the fallen Morning Star, stating that “when he falls, he falls like Lucifer”. This particular allusion works on two levels. Wolsey, like Lucifer, was once held in great esteem but was ultimately disgraced and banished from the Kingdom of Heaven. And, like Lucifer, Wolsey’s downfall has left him with feeling of bitterness and self-pity. This comparison contributes to Wolsey’s distraught image; Lucifer- once loved by God- was cast down, much like Wolsey was sent to his own Hell, having been cast off by King Henry and banished from his Heaven. Wolsey also refers to his spirit and ambition as a “blossom” which is extending its “tender leaves of hope”. This...
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