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Explain to me "Sonnet 123" by Shakespeare.

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davidangel | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 17, 2009 at 1:57 AM via web

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Explain to me "Sonnet 123" by Shakespeare.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 17, 2009 at 3:22 AM (Answer #1)

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In many of his sonnets, Shakespeare addresses the personification of Death and Decay; sonnet 123 specifically addresses the personification of Time as a corrupting entity. Where in most of his sonnets the remedy to death is Love, here it appears the remedy to Time, or Decay, is Truth, because Truth never dies or alters.  No matter what monuments past generations have built to commemorate some event, the current generation doesn't quite see the intended meaning, but devises it's own interpretation of past events, even if wrong, because the monuments, due to their age, inspire reverence.  So even if the monuments are false but endure, the narrator in the sonnet will maintain the Truth, but will eventually die.  To paraphrase:

Time cannot change the Truth that I hold

Newly commemorated events, new monuments
Are nothing new to me
They're reflections of what earlier generations thought important
We live for a short time, so we marvel at ancient things
But project our own thoughts upon them
Rather than having heard about what they commemorate
History and Time I defy
And I don't worry about the past or present
For History and monuments aren't exactly true
Because Time never stops to get all the details correct
But what I perceive to be true I uphold forever
Despite that I decay and eventually die

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