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Sonnet 123: No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change Analysis



Author: poem of William Shakespeare Type: poem Views: 54

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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.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond'ring at the present, nor the past,
For thy records, and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste:
    This I do vow and this shall ever be:
    I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||




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In Shakespeare’s unique writing style, Shakespeare alludes to many literary works, including his own, as well as current events, in an obscure manner. Along with his extensive use of writing techniques, such as apostrophes, motifs, and rhythm, Shakespeare conveys his thematic message, not only alluding to current events at his time, but the progression of humanity as a whole. “Sonnet 123” does exactly that, by approaching Time’s nature from different levels of abstraction, particularly with perspective. Although “Sonnet 123” uses elements such as meter breaks and slant rhyme that distract from the main message of Time’s repetitiveness, “Sonnet 123” uses Time motifs, apostrophes between the narrator and Time, and allusions to the coronation procession of James through London to highlight the destructive and eternal passage of Time, creating the thematic macrocosm of seeking versus status seen with the narrator’s fear of change.
Although the narrator uses meter breaks and slant rhyme which can obscure the main message, the use of apostrophes, allusions, and motifs highlight the message of Time and its repetitiveness more effectively, creating the thematic macrocosm of seeking versus status. Throughout this sonnet, the narrator uses meter breaks, such as in line 1, “No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:” (Shakespeare 1). Here, the meter is broken in order to emphasize the apostrophe, but can cause confusion and reduce the fluidity of the statement. Furthermore, slant rhyme is utilized with “No wondering at the present nor the past,” (10) and “Made more or less by thy continual haste.” (12). Here, the slant rhyme can confuse the reader and distract from the main message. In line 12, the flow is also affected by the rhythm change, with the use of 11 syllables, depending on how the line is read. Although this is true, the use of slant rhyme and meter and rhythm breaks are minor compared to the usage of apostrophes, motifs, and allusions that emphasize Time’s passage and the theme of seeking versus status highlighted by the narrator’s opinion on Time.
The use of time motifs in “Sonnet 123” allows the narrator to convey the main message of Time’s destructive and repetitive nature, and emphasizes the theme of Time’s merciless actions including Death. The narrator uses many motifs, with some seen in this line: “I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.” (14) Here, the narrator is addressing Time, and uses “scythe” as a metaphor for Death. With this motif, the narrator is referring to the repetitive, merciless killings that Time commits, just like scythes with blades of grass. Not only do scythes kill like Time, but also have a similar repetitive cycle, as scythes are used during the springtime every year. The Death motif is relevant to Shakespeare’s time, as death was a constant fear, due to limited medical practices and the spread of the plague, and therefore was a central theme to Shakespeare’s writing. Another example of the use of Time motifs in “Sonnet 123” is seen in line 2: “Thy pyramids built up with newer might” (2). In this line, the word, pyramid, is a recurring motif, and a metaphor for the historic relics that Time has revealed. Later, the narrator says, “For thy records and what we see doth lie,” (11) emphasizing Time using motifs such as “records”. Here, the narrator claims that the pyramids and structures that stand even after the builders die will eventually fall, due to Time. The narrator uses Time motifs in order to accentuate the fact that Time has a destructive nature, and the theme, Time’s merciless actions of Death.
In “Sonnet 123”, the narrator uses apostrophes with Time in order to emphasize the message of Time’s eternalness and cyclical behavior, leading to the themes of the narrator’s fear of change and seeking versus stasis. An example of this is in line 1: “No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:” (1), in which the narrator addresses Time directly, and claims that Time has warped him from what he originally was. The uses of apostrophes allow the narrator to fully express his views on Time in the most direct manner. In this case, it is seen that the narrator feels like Time is manipulative, but at the same time, the narrator has a fear of change. This underlies a major theme within this sonnet of seeking versus stasis, as Time is evolving and moving humanity forward, or seeking, and the narrator has a fear of this change, and prefers stasis. Another example of the usage of apostrophes is with line 6, with the narrator saying, “What thou dost foist upon us that is old” (6). The narrator has an animosity towards Time, as seen with the word, “foist,” directed at Time through an apostrophe. This word originates from the action of cheating at cards, and suggests that the narrator believes that Time uses trickery to change the world through his seeking nature. The seeking versus stasis theme is seen with Time, the seeking force, and the narrator, the stasis force, through the use of Time motifs.
Shakespeare uses allusions of James I coronation procession of 1603-1604, historic relics such as pyramids, and literature in “Sonnet 123” to give evidence of the destructive and repetitive nature of Time, forming the thematic macrocosm of seeking versus stasis. The narrator references pyramids, in line 2: “Thy pyramids built up with newer might” (2), which alludes to many references. Firstly, the pyramids may allude to the Egyptian pyramids. They have been built in order to defy Time, but though that was the original purpose, they become “records” (11) or “registers” (9) of Time. This is noticed as the narrator chose “thy” (2) instead of “the,” suggesting that the pyramids belong to Time, rather than the original builders. In addition to the allusion to Egyptian pyramids, these pyramids are also an allusion to James I coronation procession of 1603-1604. In this coronation, many tall structures that taper to an apex, including arches, were constructed, which all fit under the loose definition of a pyramid. These structures were part of the pageantry of the coronation that Shakespeare likely attended along with his group, “King’s Men.”

| Posted on 2014-04-30 | by a guest




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