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Time In Shakespeare's Sonnets. Essay

1900 words - 8 pages

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was a favourite with both Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and King James 1 (1603-1625), and is arguably the most influential writer in history. Author of hundreds of literary works, he remains a pioneer of English literature. Shakespeare's contributions to the literary world include over 30 plays and a collection of 154 sonnets which have become world-renowned as some of the best poetry ever written. The sonnets have for centuries intrigued scholars and experts. Indeed, his sonnets have become so well known that the style of sonnet he wrote, formally called the Elizabethan sonnet, has come to be commonly called the Shakespearean sonnet. An Elizabethan sonnet contains for sections: three quatrains and a couplet. The quatrains have a rhyme scheme of ABAB, and the couple rhymes CC. Each quatrain develops a certain metaphor which illustrates the theme of the poem, and the couplet offers either a summary of the poem or a solution to the problem presented in the poem. Shakespeare creates in his sonnets a rich sequence that subverts the traditional roles of love poetry. All the poems that praise love and beauty are written seemingly for a man, and those in which the speaker is bitter and harsh, a woman is the target.Just whom the sonnets were actually written for is a much-disputed matter, but it is generally believed that first 126 sonnets seem to be directed towards a young nobleman with whom the speaker is completely enamoured. The rest of the sonnets, save the last two, seem to be for a mysterious woman whom the speaker both loves and hates. Regardless of who they were for, the sonnets revolve around a few central themes, mainly beauty, love, and death, the three of which are all subject to the one obsession of Shakespeare's sonnets: Time. Every theme that is discussed or illustrated in the sonnets is "all in war with Time" (sonnet 15): beauty fades with time; love is subject to some degree to beauty, which is ultimately subject to time; and death is, of course, only a matter of time. In some poems Shakespeare laments the havoc wreaked upon humankind by time, in some he attacks time itself and curses it for it's effect upon love and beauty, and in other he offers ideas as to how to overcome the "injurious" hand of time. One could argue that time is not merely a theme in Shakespeare poetry, but rather a subject, for he uses other themes to explore the effect of time.In exploring time, Shakespeare personifies it, likening it to a "hideous night", a hungry lion, a tyrant, and a thief. He uses metaphors of seasons and months of the year, as well as times of the day to represent time and the passage of time. Shakespeare, having the favour of both the monarchs whose reigns his career spanned, did not have the limitations of court poet set on him. He is able to step outside of politics and the conventions of court poetry, such as the battered lover or the idealized beloved, and explore themes in an altogether different light....

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