Closely related to similes, metaphors immediately identify one object or idea with another, in one or more aspects. The meaning of a poem frequently depends on the success of a metaphor. Like a simile, a metaphor expands the sense and clarifies the meaning of something. "He's such a pig," you might say, and the listener wouldn't immediately think, "My friend has a porcine boyfriend," but rather, "My friend has a human boyfriend who is (a) a slob, (b) a voracious eater, (c) someone with crude attitudes or tastes, or (d) a chauvinist." In any case, it would be clear that the speaker wasn't paying her boyfriend a compliment, but unless she clarifies the metaphor, you might have to ask, "In what sense?" English Renaissance poetry is characterized by metaphors that turn into elaborate conceits, or extended metaphors. Poets like John Donne and William Shakespeare extended their comparisons brilliantly, with the effect that the reader was dazzled. Contemporary poets tend to be more economical with their metaphors, but they still use them as one of the chief elements that distinguishes poetry from less lofty forms of communication.

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