Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare makes sure to include love and sadness throughout these lines. The poets goal was for this sonnet to show how war and time destroy everything in their paths but one thing that neither of these things can touch his works. In the sonnet he implies that love physically might die but as long as it is in this sonnet it will truly never die. No matter the circumstance, this sonnet will always be looking back upon the reader proving that love truly does come and go. I argue that everything such as marble and monuments diminishes but literature is indestructible and will be carried on till the earth stands still.
As the sonnet begins, Shakespeare starts off with negative language using the word not. This gets the reader prepared to look for the type of these Shakespeare will be comparing to his love and contradicting at the same time. Shakespeare refers to “Not marble nor the gilded monuments” (1) as a symbol of power and significance. Shakespeare uses the words marble and gilded monuments to represent the material that was used in the making of statues and monuments for people with high importance which allowed them to be immortalized through these monuments. The word choice of “marble” and “gilded” describe the amount of wealth these people must have and how important one must be to become immortalized with a statue. Shakespeare then goes on to state that his sonnet will outlive any monument, “of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,” (2). The word “powerful” gives off a sense of structure, a structure that is so sturdy that even time cannot diminish his work. The image of Shakespeare’s lady will forever be kept safe in these lines, hidden from the harm of time, “But you shall shine more bright in these contents, Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time” (3-4). Shakespeare allows us to compare ” the unswept stone” with the how thing that are unswept become dirty and hideous, unlike his sonnet. Shakespeare uses the phrase “sluttish time” in way that refers to a chaotic moment.
Shakespeare uses imagery in saying, “When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry” (5). He allows the reader to compare the carnage of war to the destruction of time on these monuments, it also states that war has a way of destroying everything. As the sonnet moves on, Shakespeare describes that even weapons of mass destruction will not be able harm his lovers image, “Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn The living record of your memory” (7). As Shakespeare continues to praise the love he has for her, we reach a turn in the sonnet where we go from love to what it seems like the sonnet is headed in a hostile direction. Shakespeare uses the word “oblivious” to show that her beauty is going unnoticed, “Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity, Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room” (9-10). Shakespeare implies that past her death, her image will still be praised by all until the world is no more leaving everything to be destroyed but until then his love will forever live on, “Even in the eyes of all posterity, That wear this world out to the ending doom” (11-12). As the sonnet comes to a close Shakespeare reiterates that until the last rotation the earth takes his lovers memory will live on in these lines and will be praised by future readers. He also says that others will fall in love with his lover as they read this sonnet, “So, till the judgement that yourself arise, You live in this, and dwell in lovers eyes” (13-14). It can also be seen as when the poet uses the word “so” it shows that he is ending the sonnet in next couple of lines.
After reading through the sonnet analyzing it line by line the overall theme of the sonnet is love. Shakespeare’s love for this girl is beyond comparable. He describe his love as something that cannot be broken even by time. Using “marble” and “monuments” allows Shakespeare to give the reader a sense of comparison, to compare his lover to these sturdy material things.
The rhyme scheme was a simple one, it follows the pattern of abab cdcd efef gg. I also noticed how Shakespeare stressed on every other syllable. Shakespeare used a ton of imagery and comparison throughout his works and especially in sonnet 55, not only does he use those literary devices, he also used alliteration to help give stress on the syllable. Also Shakespeare uses irony making outcomes within the sonnet be a surprise the reader. Overall, Shakespeare uses these literary devices to really show the amount of love he has for his lover. The sonnet comes off as love and transitions to a hostile type sonnet and then back to love.
Shakespeare William. Excerpt from “Sonnet 55.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 1. Edited by David Damrosch and Kevin J.H. Dettmar, Longman 2010. Pg. 1207.