Shakespeare's Sonnets

Talking Back to Time: A Direct Address in Shakespeare's Sonnets College

Although Shakespeare’s sonnets are frequently read as well as quoted as individual poems, they are threaded together as a series by a number of recurrent themes and characters—for instance, the characters of the young man and the dark lady, and themes of beauty, love, and time. The issue of time is one that is met with a number of conflicting feelings on the part of the speaker; throughout the sonnets, it becomes clear that time—or rather, Time as a personified being—is something with which the speaker is deeply concerned, largely as a result of its anticipated effects on the youthful beauty of his love. Throughout the sonnets, we see the speaker attempt to make sense of and come to terms with his deeply rooted fear of Time. Though many of Shakespeare’s sonnets deal with this issue of trying to escape the effects of Time, Sonnet 19 and Sonnet 123 in particular reflect the speaker’s fear of, as well as desire to defy and overcome the effects of Time through the use of direct address to this oppressive and destructive character that the speaker has created.

Throughout the sonnets, particularly the early sonnets that center around the character of the young man, the speaker paints a portrait of Time as a destructive, tyrannical...

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