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Gluttony Imagery

Symbol Analysis

The imagery of disordered eating that begins in line 9 and carries through to the end of the poem is very similar to the imagery of greed that precedes it. That's because both systems of imagery deal with the impossibility of satisfaction: the glutton binges and starves, but never achieves balanced satisfaction. One important thing the switch to glutton imagery does, however, is bring the poem full circle. By returning, from a different perspective, to the food themes from the beginning of the poem, the imagery of gluttony gives the poem a clear and meaningful shape. That symmetry is definitely satisfying to the reader, even if it isn't to the speaker.

  • Line 9: In this line, Shakespeare hits us up with a metaphor when he says that the speaker is "full with feasting on your sight." Obviously, he isn't literally eating the other person's sight. Instead, the idea is that looking at "you" gives him a sense of satisfaction equal to the satisfaction he gets from eating. 
  • Line 10: In the next line, Shakespeare uses another metaphor derived from eating when he tells us that the speaker feels "clean starvèd" (i.e., totally starved—the accent mark is just to show that you need to pronounce an extra syllable) when he can't "look" at "you." Do you think the speaker is really going to be at death's door if he doesn't get to look at his beloved? We don't think so. Thus, we think this line also counts as an example of hyperbole, also known as exaggeration for effect. 
  • Line 11: In this line, the speaker uses alliteration on the letter "p" to indicate the repetitive nature of his acts of "Possessing or pursuing." This device also helps link together two ideas that are opposites of each other (having his beloved and chasing his beloved). By bringing the words together in one way (by sound), this technique makes it easier for us to see how they are different (in meaning). (Psst—we talk more about this technique in "Sound Check.")
  • Line 14: In the last line of the poem, Shakespeare leaves out some words that the reader can fill in for him or herself. Clearly, Shakespeare is talking about a contrast between times when the speaker gets to devour what he wants and times when everything he wants to devour is "away." Thus, as a bare minimum, we have to interpret the line as really saying "Or gluttoning on all, or [with] all away." For a more detailed explanation of how this line means what it does, check out our entry for line 14 in our "Detailed Summary."

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