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Shakespeare's Sonnet 30 And Tennyson's In Memoriam

1775 words - 8 pages

Loss has been experienced over centuries and many poets have written on the subject. William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30 and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam are two poems from different eras that express the idea of loss. Both were written after the loss of a close male friend, and both are only one poem from a series of poems. Shakespeare lived in England where he was born in 1564 and died in 1616 and Tennyson also lived in England where he was born in 1809 and died in 1892, the poems being written in 1609 and between 1833 and 1850 respectively. Whilst the poet’s historical and cultural contexts are different, and there are differences in structure and poetic devices used in the two poems, there are also similarities in the expression and feelings engendered by the loss of a loved one.

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30 continues the theme of the previous sonnet, Sonnet 29, with its memories of youth. It is believed to be one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets. It is believed that the sonnets were written about the convincing of a young man, with whom the poet seemed to have a romantic interest in (sonnets 1-126). The finale sonnets (127-154) are addressed to a women known as the dark lady. Sonnet 30 is written in relation to Sonnet 29’s theme, that memories of the youth are precious. (Mabillard, A., 2000) During the 16th and 17th century, the time of the Renaissance where there was a rebirth of art and literature, and Shakespeare was one of its most celebrated poet and playwright. However, the 17th century was also a time when the Plague and the Civil War in England took many lives. People during Shakespearean times were used to death and loss.

Tennyson’s full poem of In Memoriam was written between the years of 1833 and 1850. In Memoriam is part of a much longer poem consisting of 131 sections of varying lengths. Tennyson was “inspired by the grief he felt at the untimely death of his friend Hallam.” (Robson, W., 2013) The poem was written in the Victorian Age where the industrial revolution attracted many people from neighbouring rural areas at such a rate that the cities were unable to house them which then forced a rapid increase in unsanitary living conditions as substandard dwellings were built near factories and polluted rivers. Also during this era, many people were questioning their religious beliefs. In Memoriam has been said to reflect the Victorian feelings. (Victorian Contexts, class notes: page 102) This era influenced Tennyson along with his poor mental state, it also mediates on the Victorians’ deepest concerns about religious doubt, such as death, creation and evolution. In Memoriam touches on many intellectual issues and the poet searches for the meaning of life and death while trying to come to terms with his sense of loss. (Victorian Context, class notes: page 110) In Memoriam reflects the struggle to reconcile traditional religious beliefs and faith which was a popular Victorian aspect of literature at the time. The poem...

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