Analyzing Poetry. Shakespeare’s 123 rd sonnet. Learning Outcomes. To understand Shakespeare’s Sonnet and find deeper meanings within (Meaning) To identify and understand the purpose of the literary techniques and of the structure (Images, Language, and Structure)
Analyzing Poetry Shakespeare’s 123rd sonnet
Learning Outcomes To understand Shakespeare’s Sonnet and find deeper meanings within (Meaning) To identify and understand the purpose of the literary techniques and of the structure (Images, Language, and Structure) To understand the personification of Time in the Poem (Images, Language, Structure, and Effect)
William Shakespeare – Some Background Info • Shakespeare was born on April 26 in 1564. William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in 1582 when he was 18 and she was 26. For a while, Shakespeare earned his living by working as both an actor as well as a playwright. Shakespeare wrote his works in the style of the time, with extravagant metaphors and rhetorical expressions that didn’t always quite make sense. No one knows exactly when, but he died sometime in 1616. As for his 154 Sonnets, they were mostly about love. He sometimes wrote a series of sonnets for one person.
1. Understand the Text (Meaning) Original text Literal translation
Looking Deeper Shakespeare’s Sonnets were usually about love and were written for or about his women: You don’t necessarily have to take the sonnet literally.
Key Ideas • Time is a villain and a trickster, and the poet doesn’t want to fall victim to Time’s schemes: • Time tricks us because: • People make judgments on people’s appearances (i.e. young – beautiful and loving, old – shriveled, ugly and lethargic) and this is a fault of time, because time determines your age, and thus beauty. • Line 6: Use of the word foist means…. • This theme of love is relevant to this particular sonnet, even though on the surface it focuses on time, because throughout the poem Shakespeare is saying that even though time will erase his lover’s beauty (time’s destruction) he will still love her(Thou shalt not boast that I do change) • “For thy records and what we see doth lie” => Time’s effects on people’s appearances can lie about their character. • “I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee” => He will be loyal to her, despite Time’s destruction and decay on her beauty.
2a. Sonnet Structure: Quick Review • Sonnets have: • 14 lines • 3 Quatrains (Normally with a rhyme structure) • 1 Volta • 1 Couplet (with a rhyme structure) • 10 syllables per line (rhythm) • And traditionally an iambic pentameter (accent on every second syllable) • In this sonnet, about time, the rhythm is very important because the effect of the iambic pentameter is that it gives a beat that is constant… almost like the ticking of a clock.
2a. Sonnet Structure Volta
The Quatrains (lines 1-12) point Effects Rhyme is meant to emphasize important words. Words like ‘change’ and ‘strange’ rhyme, so do ‘admire’ and ‘desire’, as well as ‘lie’ and ‘defy’. In quatrains 1 & 3 the rhyming words on lines 1 and 3 are related to time and defiance, while in lines 2 & 4 they are related to love. The effect is that we understand that there is a connection between Time and love & beauty • The quatrains are four lines of poetry that have a rhyme scheme like this: ABAB, CDCD, EFEF. Each quatrain usually has its own purpose within the topic: i.e. rhyme scheme: • No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change: • Thy pyramids built up with newer might, • To me are nothing novel, nothing strange; • They are but dressings of a former sight.
The Couplet (lines 13-14) Point Effects Because the couplet is after the volta it has a new topic, which is the promise to not change despite Time’s destruction. The effect is that it is the final thing to be said, therefore the most impacting and memorable. It is indented to set apart lines with the same rhythm or rhyme (in our case AA rhyme pattern). Shakespeare wanted to set apart those lines rhythmically as well as visually so we would remember and have that impact. • The couplet is after the Volta • Both lines of the couplet are indented • The couplet is about a promise • It has a GG rhyme pattern
2b. Literary Techniques: Images Metaphors • METAPHORS: Shakespeare addresses growth and change by means of metaphorically defying time • A scythe is a metaphor for destruction because it is a tool to mow down grass • It can also refer to the Grim Reaper, the Master of Time, and Death & Decay EFFECTS: • The effect is it creates a visual image for the reader and a negative connotation of time, to get you on the poet’s side. • So technically Shakespeare is talking about the Grim Reaper when he speaks about the enemy: “… thy scythe and thee.”
2b. Literary Techniques: Images Symbolism (can be applied to diction as well) • Pyramids – symbolize once-glory and beauty [of the poet’s woman] that has decayed over time into monuments of ruin • They can also symbolize glory but are tombs – once again represent the death and deterioration Time brings • Scythe– as mentioned before, a scythe is a tool used by farmers for cutting grass, and is also used by the Grim Reaper who is the Master of Time [kills you when your time has come]. Effect -> viewing of Time from Poet’s perception. • Foist– to force upon fraudently. Effect -> time is a cheat, and a trickster
2b. Literary Techniques: Language Alliteration effects The effect is that it creates a mood of defiance and renouncing, same as the 1st word of the sonnet. drags your attention to it and the fact that there is no future mentioned. He is open to the future. Beauty is just a façade, so it may fade. emphasizes 2nd person, and in extension the personification of time. • Line 3: Nothing novel, nothing => • Line 10: Present nor the past (consonance) => • Throughout: th sounds (consonance) =>
3. Personification of Time • Time is personified • the poet talks to it in 2nd person, as if he were speaking to another human. • When he gives Time human actions such as build or foist. • Humans have a problem with time because it is one of the few things they cannot control. People try to fight Time. It is easier to deal with or understand when it in the form of a person.
3. Personification of Time: my Interpretation • Love is something between two people: it’s a very human thing. • Shakespeare makes time human in order that he can connect it with the humanity of love. • Application: if you think of love, you think of two people in love, not a concept falling in love with a concept. It’s human. That’s why Shakespeare had to personify Time: to make it applicable. • This sonnet was obviously for a woman. Not everyone understands things like Shakespeare, so if he says it to his lover he has to make it applicable so that she can actually understand what he’s saying.
3. Personification of Time • You can go deeper with this personification: The Grim Reaper (Time’s Scythe) • Shakespeare loves a female, and ‘sees’ the Grim Reaper as a jealous guy trying to take his love away from him by bringing about her decay and demise. • In short, Shakespeare personifies time so that he can make this woman understand how much he loves her.
Activity In groups of 3+ people: Discuss/debate which part of SMILE did Shakespeare use most to carry across his true purpose. Support your decision with at least one example. (Interpersonal & verbal/linguistic.)