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Obey And Defy: Shakespeare’s Sonnet As A Lesson About Time

1052 words - 5 pages

William Shakespeare’s “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore” is an English sonnet about the nature of time, in which Shakespeare both follows and deviates from the traditional sonnet form. Reading the poem with this in mind gives the poem an additional dimension, and leads the reader to consider how this technique impacts the poem’s meaning. Shakespeare has modeled the poem’s external structure to coincide with his view that time is a destructive force whose wrath is unavoidable, and this is clear upon examining his use of a consistent rhyme scheme, his employment of trochees and spondees, and his adherence to the structure of three quatrains and a couplet.
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The second line also begins with a trochee in the words “so do,” and together, these two lines generate the effect of a building attack by the destructive force of time (Shakespeare). This attack peaks in the third line, when Shakespeare employs a spondee, followed by regular iambs, in the words “each changing place with that which goes before.” Just like time rises up and assails humanity, the trochees and spondee have done so to the poem’s rhythm, paralleling time’s power and force. Shakespeare uses another trochee in line six, in the words “crawls to,” followed by a second one in line seven, in the word “crooked,” and a third in line nine, in the words “Time doth,” each of which achieves a similar, albeit less intense, effect of attack through emphasis. Finally, in the last line of the poem, Shakespeare uses a trochee and a spondee back-to-back in the phrase “praising thy worth,” the only place in which he does this (14). This not only emphasizes the fact that this poem is addressed to Shakespeare’s love, but the fact that this line is unique from the others mirrors how there has been a shift in Shakespeare’s perspective on time.
This shift in Shakespeare’s feelings towards time as the poem progresses is also reflected in the poem’s external form—three quatrains and a couplet. As in most English sonnets, each quatrain introduces a new dimension of Shakespeare’s perspective. The first stanza deliberates how time is constantly moving forward; the second stanza explicates the cycle of life, comparing it to the progression of a sunrise to an eclipse; and the third stanza poses the idea that Time, personified, gives out the gift of youth only so that he can take it back. Just as Shakespeare feels that time’s nature is complex, the poem is written so that it grows more multifaceted as it progresses. This is furthered when Shakespeare uses the final couplet to contradict his claims about time’s destructiveness, stating that he “hope[s] [his] verse shall stand” (13),...

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