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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55: ‘Not marble, nor the gilded monuments’

A reading of a classic Shakespeare sonnet

‘Not marble, nor the gilded monuments’ is one of the more famous poems in Shakespeare’s sequence of 154 sonnets. The poem is a version of the popular conceit that the poet’s words can make his lover immortal through ‘rhyme’. As commentators are quick to point out, the Bard failed in one sense, in that we cannot say for certain what the name of the addressee of the poem was (the Earl of Pembroke? or the Earl of Southampton?). But the poem is a fine example of the English sonnet, and so repays closer analysis.

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
’Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 41: ‘Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits’

A summary of Shakespeare’s 41st sonnet

As opening lines go, ‘Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits’ is not up there with some of the opening lines that we’ve had earlier on in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, such as the rightly celebrated opening lines to Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 20. Nevertheless, this poem has some curious features which make it worth closer analysis.

Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits,
When I am sometime absent from thy heart,
Thy beauty, and thy years full well befits,
For still temptation follows where thou art.
Gentle thou art, and therefore to be won,
Beauteous thou art, therefore to be assailed;
And when a woman woos, what woman’s son
Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed?
Ay me! but yet thou mightst my seat forbear,
And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth,
Who lead thee in their riot even there
Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth:
Hers by thy beauty tempting her to thee,
Thine by thy beauty being false to me. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 40: ‘Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all’

A summary and paraphrase of Shakespeare’s 40th sonnet

Of all Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Sonnet 40 is perhaps the most relentlessly focused on ‘love’: the word itself recurs ten times in the sonnet’s fourteen lines, including twice in the poem’s opening line: ‘Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all’. In the following analysis, we’re going to examine how Shakespeare’s relationship with the Fair Youth has changed by the 40th sonnet in the sequence.

Take all my loves, my love, yea take them all;
What hast thou then more than thou hadst before?
No love, my love, that thou mayst true love call;
All mine was thine, before thou hadst this more.
Then, if for my love, thou my love receivest,
I cannot blame thee, for my love thou usest;
But yet be blam’d, if thou thy self deceivest
By wilful taste of what thyself refusest.
I do forgive thy robbery, gentle thief,
Although thou steal thee all my poverty:
And yet, love knows it is a greater grief
To bear love’s wrong, than hate’s known injury.
Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows,
Kill me with spites yet we must not be foes. Read the rest of this entry