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William Shakespeare—Sonnets Essay

The first 17 poems of Shakespeare’s sonnets are addressed to a young man urging him to marry and have children in order to immortalize his beauty by passing it to the next generation. The subsequent sonnets (18 to 126) express the speaker’s love for a young man; brood upon loneliness, death, and the transience of life. The remaining sonnets (127 to 152) focus on Dark Lady. Dark Lady sonnets are about desire and lust. In this paper, I will discuss how William Shakespeare’s sonnets progress through the sonnet sequence.

In Shakespeare’s Sonnet III the poet is exhorting the Young Man to marry and have a child, merely to immortalize his beauty. “Glass”in the first line refers to a mirror; the face thou “viewest” means the reflection of yourself. Beguile means cheat; “unbless” refers to the unhappiness of marring the Young Man; “some mother” means the women that the Young Man would cause her to carry his child. The meaning of the first quatrain is “Look into the mirror and tell that image it is time to have a child and if you do not get married now, you will become too old and you will make the woman that you wish to carry your child unhappy.” The phrase “uneared” womb in line five means plowing the womb, as the plow enters into the soil so does the man enter the woman.

Metaphorically, it represents the Young Man’s semen is like beans or seeds of a plant being spread on the ground. The words “tillage” and “husbandry” are both words for agriculture, which they continued the metaphor in line five. In my own opinion, “husbandry” has the double meaning of being a husband. The word “fond” means foolish. “The tomb of his self-love” is related to death because he chooses not to have a child which it will end his blood line or posterity. The following two lines (9 & 10) means that when your mother looks at you, it’s like looking in a mirror; she is able to see herself young again. The phrase “the lovely April of prime” means the time when the mother is young and most beautiful.

April is the beginning of spring which everything is young and fresh. The phrase “golden time” in line twelve means the good-old young time. The next two lines can be translated as “So when you look at yourself in the mirror, you will find that you have become very old; however, you may see the younger self on your child’s face.” The phrase “remembered not to be” is the inversion of “not to be remembered.” In my opinion the last two lines can be translated as “If you live and died before having a child, your image will be gone forever from the history.” This sonnet is simply urging the Young Man not to die without a child. In the last two lines, it re-emphasizes the theme again.

It is said that Sonnet XVIII is one of the most beautiful sonnet William Shakespeare ever written and this sonnet is a very straight-forward one. The translation of the first quatrain is “How can I compare you to a summer’s day? You are more beautiful and more constant: rough winds shake the beloved buds of May and summer is far too short because your beauty is eternal.” The word “fair” in line seven has different meaning. The first “fair” refers to everything that is beautiful while the second “fair” refers to the beauty of beautiful things. The second quatrain can be translated as this: “Sometimes the sun is too hot and its light often be blocked by the clouds; and everything beautiful sometime will lose its beauty by the misfortune or by the uncontrollable course of nature.

”The first two quatrains focus on the fair lord’s beauty: the poet attempts to compare it to a summer’s day, but shows that there can be no such comparison, since the fair lord’s timeless beauty far surpasses that of the fleeting, inconstant season. The phrase “eternal summer” in line nine refers to beauty. The word “ow’st” in line ten means owning; the word “grow’st” in line means grafted, that is, your image will be grafted in my lines. The translation of third quatrain is “But your beauty will not fade, nor will you lose the beauty that you possess and the death will not claim you for his own, because in my words and lines you will live forever.” The translation of the last two lines is “As long as there are people on this earth, this poem lives on, which it will make you become immortal.”

The motif of Sonnet LXII is that the Young Man’s too deeply in love with his true love and that is the reason why he would love himself so much. Perhaps the poet had been accused by the youth of indulging in extremes of self-love, and this is the poet’s reply to the accusation. In fact he acknowledges his guilt, admitting that he is indeed absorbed in a narcissism of self admiration, but he gives an ingenious twist to the ending by the discovery that his self-love is in fact his true love. This is yet another example of the theme of the oneness of lovers. In this poem Shakespeare put to good use in his defense of self-preoccupation. The word “Methinks” is an old English word for people to say “I think that…” The phrase “No shape so true” means that there is no one’s body is shaped as perfectly, rightly, properly and correctly as mine is.

In line eight, there is an inverted sentences; that is, “I surmount all the other people in all worths (in any and every quality).” In line eleven “I read” means I interpret or in my understandment. The full translation of Sonnet LXII would be: “I am an extremely vain person because all I see in my eyes is myself; and there is no cure for this sin. This sin, furthermore, is so deeply rooted in my soul that I do not believe it can ever be removed. However, when I look at my own real face in the mirror, I am disgusted, and I realize that to love such a face would be a sin. In fact, what I love about myself is my possession of you, and my beauty derives from the part of you that I possess.”

In Sonnet XC it is possible that some act or failure to act, or some statement, made in the charmed circle of the Young Man, has convinced the poet that his beloved is one of those fortunate few who moves others but is himself ‘as stone’, and that all along he has given a false impression of what he intends to do. Therefore there are grounds for cautious optimism for the his beloved perhaps will remain faithful after all, despite his previous behavior. And there is hope that all will now be well, after the ravages of suspicion which have so much damaged the former trust. “They that have power to hurt, and will do none,” in line one means the hurt which these people can do is presumably on an emotional and personal level, rather than physical, political, social, financial, or whatever; however, these people choose not to do any harm. Line three and four can be translated as “Those who causing emotional upheaval in others are just like stones which are unmoved, cold and their hearts are unfeeling hearts.”

The second quatrain is hard to interpret; in line five the phrase “heaven’s graces” refers to the blessing of heaven, and from this line the poet reverses the reader’s negative attitude in the first quatrain. Line six has many difficult words. “husband…from” is a phrase that means to protect…from; “nature’s riches” can refer to the Young Man’s lover’s beauty; “expense” means waste or ruin. So this line can be translated as “And protect the beloved one from being wasted;”

The following two lines can be translated as “They exercise perfect self-control; however, others who have nature’s gifts (beauty) are not in control of those gifts, but merely administer them as if they were stewards.” The third quatrain can be translated as “Those who possess great beauty are like flowers which make the summer sweet, but to themselves the beauty is only to themselves. If that beauty got corrupted, the lowest weed is better than a corrupted flower.” The last two line can be translated in one sentence because I think it tells the same thing; that is, “When the best things got corrupted it become the worst.”


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