Immortality in Shakespeare’s Sonnets - Sample Essay
The idea of immortality will either fascinate or scare you; fascinate you in the way that something could stay the same forever or scare you because nothing lives forever. Shakespeare felt true love was eternal despite anything and beauty was everlasting through his words. He believed Time was the taker of all things, but if his words and love were powerful enough, they could defeat Time. Sonnets 65,104,108, and 116 demonstrate how he has defeated Time with imagery, love, and admiration. Shakespeare gives credit to Time in these four sonnets by displaying it’s ability to make things decay, fade, and die.
He says right away, “Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea, but sad mortality o’ersways their power. ” I imagine brass becoming rusty, stones perishing, the earth decaying, and the sea evaporating all with this first line. He then proposes a question we all might ask, “How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, whose action is no stronger than a flower? ” (65) A flower is delicate in every way. If held by the petal the petal will tear, if shaken the petals will fall, if stepped on the flower will die. A tone of despair continues though out this short sonnet while he contemplates ways to defeat Time.
“O, fearful meditation, where, alack, shall Time’s best jewel from Time’s chest lie hid? Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,” Shakespeare has compared beauty to a jewel which would compare just as equal because jewels are rare and beautiful. I felt imagery was brought out as well because I imagined a huge grandfather clock ticking, but inside the clock a little man trying to stop it and failing each second. Then in a moment of clarity and brilliance, Shakespeare finds a way to beat Time! He is reminded and content in knowing that his verses can preserve youth’s beauty.
“That in black ink my love may still shine bright” The beauty of his beloved can last forever now because of the beautiful words he has written to describe her. This last verse is ironic because it’s saying black will shine bright. Black isn’t really a color that shines brightly which makes that closing verse more powerful. Nothing can take away his words, including Time because everyone will have read them and will remember it. Just as his words can defeat Time, his memory and true admiration cannot be taken away either.
Sonnet 104 is absolutely wonderful because it’s about a man who is just thrown by his friend’s beauty no matter how much time has passed since the last time they were together. Right away he confesses his admiration, “To me, fair friend, you never can be old, for as you were when first your eye I eyed, such seems your beauty still. ” He then uses fantastic season imagery when writing about all the seasons. “Three winters cold have from the forests shook three summers’ pride; .. ” It just perfectly illustrates a summer tree with no more leaves and only branches.
These verses definitely take you back to each season. Shakespeare goes on to argue in the next couplet, if youth’s beauty has gone away: Beauty will never amount to youth’s face, nor will anything in the future be more beautiful than he. Youth’s beauty is immortal against Time because they met in “beauty’s summer” which was the boys perfect state. Shakespeare is saying his beauty is immortal because it doesn’t matter how long it’s been or who else comes into this world; I have seen what real beauty is so nothing can or will ever compare.
Now that Shakespeare has proved beauty to be immortal with words and memories, he must prove that love is also part of immortality. Sonnet 108 is also written to a boy whom I am not sure who he is. Despite who he is writing to, he declares his love to be everlasting and eternal. In fact, he’s not quite sure how to express himself anymore so that he does not sound repetitive. “What’s in the brain that ink may character which hath not figured to thee my true spirit? ” However, as many times as he has declared his love, he feels he must just as it is required to pray everyday.
Time had no affect on this love no matter the wrinkles or age. “So that eternal love in love’s fresh case weighs not the dust and injury of age, nor gives to necessary wrinkles place, . . . ” Time may have literally taken away his flawless face and youth, but love is stronger than Time. Love sees things in the purest form and from the first time it began. In this sonnet, Shakespeare somewhat lives in the past when thinking and describing the boy’s beauty. Beauty has still remained immortal in this sonnet as does his love for never changing.
Continuing on Love, Shakespeare executes the idea of love being immortal in sonnet 116. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. ” Now, this poem is exactly what love being immortal is all about. From the first verse to the last verse, it remains incredibly powerful and true. Time stands no chance against a love like this. “O no, it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken; . .” Love cannot be shaken or unchanged, once you love someone it can never go away.
It’s as if its’ been permanently engraved in your heart and soul and there’s no going back. Shakespeare begins to beat Time down by saying even Love is greater than beauty and you. “Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. ” Time continues everyday leaving everything behind . . . EXCEPT Love. Shakespeare is so persistent is this theory that he is willing to put even his own reputation on the line. “If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
” An intense closing verse for someone who has so much riding on himself. If he believed wholeheartedly that Time could in no way defeat Love, it must be true. Shakespeare as usual does an excellent job illustrating imagery, passion, and complex ideas with his work. The sonnets I chose were chosen because they somewhat all linked. Shakespeare believed in immortality with beauty and love. He proved with these four sonnets, that Time surely was inevitable, but could be conquered. He preserves beauty and love with his sonnets making everything he’s seen and felt to be immortal until Time itself has finished.