Shakespeare's Sonnets

A Clockwork Shakespeare: Analysis of Time in Sonnet 12

William Shakespeare’s take on the passage of time seems consistently concentrated on its most destructive effects on the body. He obsesses over this ineluctable force across several of his sonnets, couching the passage of time with almost exclusively negative terminology. He resonates the same ideal 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 ultimately his only conceivable hindrance of this in bearing children.

The personifications in this sonnet function primarily to emphasize elements of death. Shakespeare breathes life into them only to figuratively kill them off soon afterward. He effectively demonstrates the ravages of the inescapable passage of time, as seen in this juxtaposition: “When I do count the clock that tells the time / and see the brave day sunk into hideous night” (1-2). Here the clock almost tauntingly “tells” the time, in a sense mocking the “brave” day that inevitably must acquiesce to the flow of time thereby falling “into hideous night.” This also draws a sense of irony, in that sunsets are typically depicted beautifully, whereas this one is repugnant. Subsequent...

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