Just occasionally, Shakespeare’s characters declare themselves speechless, but at these moments they rarely remain quiet for long. In shock at the deaths of the two young princes in the tower, the Duchess of York in Richard III declares, ‘My woe-wearied tongue is still and mute’ (4.4.18). Hardly pausing for breath, she then laments, ‘Edward Plantagenet, why art thou dead?’ Antonio, at the end of The Merchant of Venice, learns of his lawyer’s real identity and openly declares, ‘I am dumb’. Six lines later, he finds words: ‘Sweet lady, you have given me life and living’ (5.1.279, 285). Hamlet ridiculously tells himself, ‘But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue’ (1.2.159), and Cordelia, with eloquent feeling, explains that she cannot heave her heart into her mouth (1.1.89-90). Even Shakespeare’s taciturn country justice of the peace named Silence in 2 Henry IV manages a few words (3.2.4ff). Although he repeatedly bemoaned his ‘tongue-tied’ Muse (Sonnets 66, 80, 85, 140), Shakespeare developed an aesthetics of silence. Drama is naturally as much a visual as an auditory art and hence the creative purposes to which Shakespearean silences were put are often pictorial. This article focuses specifically on a particular kind of verbal silence – the silence of images expressed in words, a literary technique known as ekphrasis – and argues that in Shakespeare’s plays and poems, silence has powerful, transformative and performative effects.