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The Main Theme Of Art In Shakespeare’S Sonnet 60

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The year is 1608, the hottest book of the year actually of the century is about to hit the shelves of modern day England: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. To William Shakespeare’s surprise, the complete opposite of success would be the result for his book of sonnets. At least that was the outcome while he was alive. Published only one time during his living days, the poetry world would have to wait until 1640 for these 154 sonnets to be printed once again. Using the classic Shakespearean sonnet style of writing, these fourteen iambic pentameter lines are separated in four unique quatrains. To be more precise, Shakespeare uses three quatrains with the first twelve lines and then the final couplet with the last two. The rhyme scheme he decides to use in this sonnet is original, one that very few poets have ever tried to use and master: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. All jokes aside, this rhyme scheme was actually very new for the period. Shakespeare would use it to be able to distance himself from the other poets of the time. With all this information, it’s a guarantee you have guessed which sonnet will be dissected in this paper. No?

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Alright, sonnet 60 is the lucky work of art that will be looked at. Discussing the topic of death and remembrance after the passing away of each human, this sonnet sheds light on the only aspect of life that is able to withstand the test of time: Art. Four themes are presented through these 14 lines to highlight and support his main idea: Time, Death and Nature. Life can be summarized into 3 different stages: birth, growth and the inevitable final stage, death. If we look closely at these different periods, one common denominator is present. Coincidentally it happens to be the first theme that will be studied to further the comprehension of this sonnet. That concept is time. As living beings go through the vicious circle of life, one thing becomes apparent. The idea that all our actions and decisions are based around this notion of time. It seems to control us all and is one of the causes of life itself. Shakespeare starts off this sonnet by making reference to the importance the notion of time has: “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, / so do our minutes hasten to their end”. In this passage, the author uses comparison to highlight the last stage of the life cycle with our dwindling last minutes coming to their end by using the image of waves crashing into the shore. Sincere apologies, other references to the circle of life and how it is based around time are presented through the 14 lines, but being that this text has page restrictions they cannot all be explained.

As the sonnet goes on, Shakespeare announces in his unique almost subtle way that there is only one thing in this world that can withstand this test of time and defeat it. That work of magic just happens to be art, more precisely poetry. He makes reference to this slayer of time in his final couplet: “And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, / Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand”. Presented here at the end of the sonnet is the explanation that even though time is cruel, there is hope that the verses the author has written will withstand the test and not come to an end like everything else has. Shakespeare provides the readers with the idea that art is in fact timeless and is able to battle and defeat the cruel hands of time. There are 2 things in life that are certain, the first is the horrible notion of taxes where the government decides to take from your paycheck a certain percentage of money because he was there working with you all week. The second is a less cruel notion known as death. Throughout sonnet 60, Shakespeare presents the idea of death vividly giving the readers this gloomy and morbid idea regarding the end of their respective life cycles. Pretty depressive poet, don’t you think?

As the first 3 quatrains are read, the future is described as nothing to look forward to because of the pending idea of death looming over our heads. The poet uses numerous writing styles to bring forth these arguments, one of which is: “And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow”. In this particular line, Shakespeare brings in the world of agriculture to spice up his references on our end of days. Explaining that nothing that is a living creature or a living thing will remain alive after being encountered by death, the poet is once more proving the power of this dark concept and how inevitable it is to all living things including humans. To put this in much simpler terms: everyone and everything will die. But wait! The final couplet is here once again to save the day and give a bit of sunshine to this dark sonnet: “And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, / Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand”. Not to use the same reference twice, but this couplet contains such importance to the understanding of this sonnet that it will be used over and over. In this case, Shakespeare admits that he knows we will all die. But once more only one concept can escape death and that is art. The proof being that this verse he wrote still stands in relevance today 410 years later. Once more art has defeated the notion of death and continues to live on centuries later. The notion that nature and man go hand in hand seems to be very common within the works of poets throughout history. Not to be undone, Shakespeare presents this same concept in his sonnet 60, all while keeping the dark notion of death present.

Using various writing styles to underline the similarities between humans and nature, the poet is able to present to the readers various examples in which we both follow the same destiny. If you’re still wondering at this point what that may be, it’s death. Whether it be the waves at the beginning of the sonnet or the quatrain about agriculture, both parties respect the circle of life as he presents it: “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, / So do our minutes hasten to their end”. Using the same reference as the theme of time, these two lines present perfectly the relation nature and man have. With the early birth of the waves in the body of water, we as humans are born out of the wombs of our mothers. As life goes on the waves grow, just as we humans grow through time. Then one day, as the waves crash into the shore marking their end, man also sees his final minutes ticking away. With all this being said, Shakespeare does bring up one point in his final couplet that seems to separate man from nature.

The idea that man is able to create art, according to the author, is what helps them distance themselves from nature and leave a lasting mark on earth even after their passing away. When William Shakespeare references his verses in this final couplet: “And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand, / Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand”, he is announcing to the readers that art and its longevity is the what will help separate man from nature.

In conclusion, throughout the reading of this sonnet the general idea that Shakespeare wishes to present becomes very clear to the readers. The notion that art is in fact the only aspect of life that is timeless and can withstand death itself is shown on numerous occasions. Whether it be the challenging of time by art, its longstanding presence after the death of its creators or even its capacity to distance humans from nature, art proves to be the most powerful aspect there is on earth. That statement can also be argued and defended in our modern society. With students still studying the works of authors like Shakespeare, art from the renaissance still being viewed at museums all across the world, music from pre-2000’s still being played on the radio and widely requested by the listeners, it is clear that the power of art is truly timeless. Even after the death of the creators of these works of art, their demand and presence in our society is still wildly obvious and will only continue to grow. Proving once and for all that art will forever be the most powerful.

18 May 2020

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