Consonance - Definition and Examples

Consonance

Definition

Consonance refers to the intentional repetition of consonant sounds in two or more words. This technique is useful if you want to reinforce the significance of an idea or create a particular rhythm in the lines.

Musicality

Subtle use of consonance can shape the melody of a poem. For example, consider the repetition of /m/ and /t/ in the first four lines of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”:

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

The soft /m/ sound is repeated in “compare”, “summer’s”, “more”, “temperate” and “May” while the harsher /t/ sound can be heard in “art”, “temperate” “short” and “date”. Notice how these sounds occur on the stressed syllables. There is also the repetition of the guttural /k/ sound in “compare” and “shake” and the sibilant “summer’s”, “shake”, “lease” and “short”. Combined with assonance and alliteration, Shakespeare creates an effective and beautiful harmony that ensures these lines are very memorable. Put simply, they sound great.

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