Shakespeare's Exploration In Sonnet 2 Of The Themes Of Age And Beauty

2194 words - 9 pages

Shakespeare's Exploration in Sonnet 2 of the Themes of Age and Beauty

· Look closely at effects of language, imagery and handling of the
sonnet form.

* Comment on ways in which the poem’s methods and concerns are
characteristic of other Shakespeare sonnets you have studied.

The second of Shakespeare’s sonnets conveys an argument the poet is
making somewhat implicitly to a subject whose identity is hazy and
unknown to the reader, even in retrospect. The simplified argument is
an attempt by Shakespeare to persuade his subject to produce an heir
and therefore retain his beauty through his child, to avoid wasting
such beauty.

The opening quatrain through use of imagery focuses on the devastating
effect that time has on beauty. The opening line deals with time in
terms of seasons, specifically winter. The imagery associated with
winter is possibly the most negative of all the seasons, and an
immediate sense of harshness and coldness arises, which has negative
connotations with the idea of time. The word ‘besiege’, in a sense
personifies time as the enemy and furthermore is effective through the
physical images it evokes. This has the effect of making the image
vivid for the reader as he can almost visualise the conflict. The
effect of the military imagery emphasised through words such as
‘besiege’ and ‘trenches ‘backs this idea further and suggests almost
there is an ongoing war against time. This is additionally reflected
through ‘dig deep’, which through the use of alliteration brings the
readers’ attention to the specific language and stresses the idea of
the physical force of time. It further suggests via its rhythmic sound
when read, a slow but steady motion, which envisages time as a
continuous process of wearing away ‘thy beauty’s field’. Beauty is
conveyed through natural words such as ‘field’, which suggests
smoothness seems to contrast with the military imagery roughness of
trenches. The poet further emphasises the beauty of his subject’s
youth through splendid words such as ‘livery’ and ‘proud’, which are
characteristic of a contrast with time’s negative implications and
eventual affects. The use of the comma on line 3 has the effect of
creating an anticipatory pause – preparing the reader for a comparison
between the present, where his subject is admired by all (‘so gaz’d
on’ reflects this), and the future. Further contrast is created
through the repeated use of natural imagery, although the effect of
this in its negative sense – the image of a ‘tatter’d weed’ - refers
back to the sense of time’s physical effect. The second comma use
seems to emphasise - through creating a pause, which draws the
reader’s attention to the words following -Shakespeare’s point, and
the idea that his subject will be ‘of small worth held’ is in direct
opposition to ‘so gaz’d...

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