In this essay I will describe the themes of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the structure and the imagery in the sonnets. The main themes of the sonnets are love, beauty, mutability and death. The sonnets are almost all constructed from three four-line stanzas and a final couplet composed in iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg, this is the structure of most of his sonnets and I will describe the effect of the structure in his sonnets. I will also write about the imagery in the sonnets which is usually revolved around nature, weather and the seasons throughout the year.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are more or less love poems and I will talk about who they might or might not have been for in my essay. “Sonnet 18”, potrays the youth of marriage, he uses descriptions of nature, and the power and images that they imply, and directly compares them to the power the young man possesses in his youth. In “Sonnet 18,” Shakespeare shows us that his love will be preserved through his “eternal lines” of poetry by comparing his love and poetry with a summer’s day.
Shakespeare then uses personification to emphasize these comparisons and make his theme clearer. Shakespeare also uses repetition of single words and ideas throughout the sonnet in order to stress the theme that his love and poetry are eternal, unlike other aspects of the natural world. Using the devices of metaphor, personification and repetition, Shakespeare reveals his theme that the natural world is imperfect while his love is made eternal through his lines of poetry.
‘But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st, Nor shall Death brag thou wand’rest in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st’ Shakespeare declares that his love is forever lasting and relates his feelings to summer, which is bright, warm and clear. Shakespeare also talks about the beauty of the young man he is writing to and says that he would never lose possession of his beauty. The fact that Shakespeare chose to compare his love to a summer’s day and not a day of another season helps to emphasize the eternity of his love and his poems.
During the summer, the days are longer than in any other season. Shakespeare compares a human life to the summer’s day when he speaks about “thy eternal summer. ” This emphasizes again Shakespeare’s idea that his love is “eternal,” unlike other natural things that age and decay. In “Sonnet 73”, That time of year, the sonnet clearly describes the imagery of nature, seasons of the year and weather. Shakespeare indicates his feeling that he has not long to live as he describes the time of year as Winter.
All the images in this sonnet suggest impending death. The season of Winter reflects that he has not long to live and as nature slowly dies in the Winter, so will he. In the first quatrain, the poet compares himself to autumn leaves, but he is unable to pinpoint their exact number, just as he cannot determine how close he is to death: “When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold” In the second quatrain, he talks about twilight, which is just before night.
This indicates that light is nearly gone and blackness will consume him. Shakespeare is close to death now as he imagines death twice more, first as “black night” and then as sleep, “Death’s second self. ” He describes himself as a fire going out and he craves for his youth as his ashes smothers it. “This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well which thou must leave ere long. ” In the couplet, Shakespeare declares his love for his youth and believes he will soon die and never see the young man again.
In reading Shakespeare’s sonnets I found that they were quite interesting and were mainly revolved around love, beauty, nature and time. The stucture remained the same in almost all the poems which emphasized the mood of Shakespeare that there was a fixed path or routine in his life. The imagery in his sonnets was mainly related to nature and the world around him, using nature references to compare his love to youth or the young man he writes about. I think Shakespeares sonnets were enjoyable to read and he potrays his emotions to his readers very clearly.
Subject: William Shakespeare,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 September 2016
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