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Published: 26-10-2019

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Time and the body: main idea of Shakespear's Sonnet 12

William Shakespeare’s take on the passage of time seems consistently concentrated on its most destructive effects on the physique. He obsesses over this ineluctable force across a number of of his sonnets, couching the passage of time with nearly exclusively damaging terminology. He resonates the identical best in “Sonnet 12: When I do count the clock that tells the time,” utilizing a sequence of ironic personifications and metonymic symbols to illustrate the inevitability of time and in the end his only conceivable hindrance of this in bearing children.

The personifications in this sonnet function primarily to emphasize components of death. Shakespeare breathes life into them only to figuratively kill them off quickly afterward. He effectively demonstrates the ravages of the inescapable passage of time, as observed in this juxtaposition: “When I do count the clock that tells the time / and see the brave day sunk into hideous night” (1-two). Right here the clock practically tauntingly “tells” the time, in a sense mocking the “brave” day that inevitably should acquiesce to the flow of time thereby falling “into hideous evening.” This also draws a sense of irony, in that sunsets are generally depicted beautifully, whereas this one particular is repugnant. Subsequent personifications employ a similar strategy, taking something generally viewed in a good manner and depicting it as developing listless and unfavorable with the passage of time. The speaker portrays the otherwise pleasant “summer’s green” (7) as inevitably “all girded up in sheaves / borne on the bier with white and bristly beard” (7-8), granting the season of summer season the ability to physically die more than time by representing it as an old, dying man by means of the bier and beard. This serves a second instance of irony, exactly where an otherwise productive and celebratory time of harvesting grain becomes juxtaposed with the unattractive facets of aging, additional portraying the graveness of time. It also provides a contrast in colour, as the lively “green” of summer clashes with the achromatic and abrasive “white and bristly beard,” further substantiating the ill-desired effects created by passing time. The series of ironic personifications observed in the very first two quatrains of the sonnet are regularly presented in this optimistic light only to succumb to death soon following, like the “lofty trees” (5) becoming “barren of leaves, which erst from heat did canopy the herd” (five-6). The speaker clearly tends to make his point in demonstrating the devastation of time, and till the concluding couplet of the sonnet gives small solace in staving it off. In the sonnet’s final bit of personification, The narrator elects that “nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defense / save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence” (13-14), suggesting that the only way to stay alive regardless of time is by means of bearing kids to reside on in one’s place.

The sonnet also employs the literary trope of metonymy to effectively accentuate aspects of death due to the passing of time. The aforementioned “bier” and “white and bristly beard” (7-eight) serve as appropriate metonymic symbols in their equation to a lot larger themes of death and aging, transcending the more evident irony and personification to function on a third rhetoric level. The speaker’s implementation of this sort of symbol serves extra support in his emphasis on the inexorable damage done by time’s passing, underlining the effects of old age and death and explicitly stating “that thou amongst the wastes of time should go” (10). Hair color proves emblematic of old age a second time in the sonnet also, when earlier the speaker “behold[s] the violet past prime and sable curls o’ersilvered are with white” (3-4). The narrator establishes a corollary here, exemplifying the concept of time draining life by displaying how it drains colour in the transformation produced from the “violet” and “sable curls” to “white,” again demonstrating the inversely correlated relationship between time and beauty. The synecdoche of the white hair to old age furthers Shakespeare’s attempt to portray the ravages wrought by the flow of time, knowing complete nicely that “sweets and beauties do themselves forsake” (11). This leads him to his only implies of retaliation against time- because all stunning creatures “die as rapidly as they see other people grow,” (12) Shakespeare proposes that the lovely creatures have to procreate to save the world from becoming dreary, dull, and dead. In this way, the incessant ebb time tolls on one’s “beauty” (9) is also sufficiently redeemed by the likeness of that beauty one’s offspring perpetuates in their spot.

Functions Cited

Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Baltimore: Penguin, 1961.
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