Metaphors of Time: Mortality and Transience in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

This essay is about metaphors of time, mortality and transience in William Shakespeare’ssonnets. Exploring these metaphors, I examine sonnets nr. 60, 64 and 65 more closely, since Ithink they are particularly representative as regards the metaphors of time. Unlike the rest ofthe sonnets, these three deal with the subject throughout the sonnets, focusing on theinevitable degeneration of material things. The image of time in the sonnets is depicted in avaried way constructed by several metaphors that add to the depth and paint imagesinfluenced by the beliefs and knowledge of Shakespeare’s time. I put these images in relationto the English Renaissance and its concepts of time using sources from, for example, JohnSpencer Hill, Katherine Duncan-Jones and Dympna Callaghan, who all have made their ownanalyses of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In my close reading of the sonnets I analyse the variousmetaphors Shakespeare uses to make us experience the passage of time as in, for example,sonnet number 60, where the ongoing passage of time is described in a cyclical way by theuse of the metaphor of the waves rolling in and out of a pebbled shore. In a repetitive way thewaves are in constant motion. We can recognise ourselves as being the pebbles, affected bythe constant motion in our lives, slowly turning into sand by time’s cruel hand.


The English Renaissance
Influence on literature
Renaissance concepts of time
The time theme
The sonnets
Close readings
Sonnet number 60
Sonnet number 64
Sonnet number 65

Author: Rehn, Johanna

Source: Sodertorn University

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