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Monday, July 16, 2012

Explain how themes/ideas were developed in the texts you have studied.Sonnets 18 and 29 by William Shakespeare.

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In Sonnets 18 and Shakespeare discusses the themes of love, beauty, time and depression. He develops these themes through the structure of the sonnet. The structure of a sonnet consists of three quatrains and a couplet.


In Sonnet 18 Shakespeare compares his friends beauty to a summer’s day. He states his friends loveliness is greater than the most perfect thing he can imagine. A summers day is flawed, it can be too hot, too overcast or too windy. The second quatrain takes the theme of loveliness into a broader context. “Every fair from fair sometime declines”. Shakespeare says that all things beautiful fade away. However at the beginning of the third quatrain (line ) Shakespeare begins to refute the power of time to erode loveliness. “But thy eternal summer shall not fade”. Interestingly S/S uses three negatives to state his opposition to the authority of time and death. “Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st”. “Nor shall death (personified) boast he has taken your beauty away. In the final line of the third quatrain, S/S states why death and time shall ‘have no dominion’.


The answer to the dilemma posed in the first quatrain (everything declines) is resolved in the final couplet. The friends loveliness will be preserved in the poem itself. “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,” (so long as the poem exists and the people read it) “So long lives this (the poem) and this gives life to thee.”


Thus the themes of Sonnet 18 are developed through the structure. The first quatrain states a comparison. The nd quatrain enlarges on this. The third quatrain addresses the dilemma positively, and the couplet states how that dilemma will be precisely resolved.


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A similar structural development occurs in Sonnet . The themes here are love and depression. The theme is stated clearly in the first quatrain. “ …..disgrace…..beweep my outcast state.” The subject is alienated from society and depressed. Even God fails to listen. Heaven is deaf to his “bootless (useless) cries”.


The subject even hates himself and looks upon his fate and curses it. The second quatrain enlarges this theme of depression throughout a series of invidious comparisons. The subject envies others who are more skilled or better looking than himself. “Featured like him, like him with friends possessed.” (Popular). The third quatrain begins typically with a conjunction that maintains a counter argument. “ Yet in this state myself almost despising.” Thus the subject has hit deep depression to the point where he almost despises himself. The ‘yet’ offers the first sign of possible joy. The subject then considers the love he possesses for his friend. “Haply I think on thee.” The quatrain then, using a simile describes a shift of mood from “sullen earth” (dark despair) to “heavens gate” (joy).


But again typically it is the couplet which provides an almost epigrammatic reason for that sudden joy. “for thy sweet love remembered… that then I scorn to change my state with Kings.”


Thus the first quatrain develops the theme of depression. The second quatrain enlarges on this theme by adding a further element of envy. The third quatrain introduces hope. Joy rises ‘like a lark’. And the final couplet reveals precisely why the subject is now happy. It is because of the sweet love of his friend.


In conclusion, the structure can be seen as the means to develop Shakespeare’s themes. Love, beauty, time and death are all explored and analyzed. Yet the sonnets rarely end on a depressed note. Whatever dilemma posed in the first quatrains will almost always be answered positively in the third quatrain.





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