How does the concept of time appear throughout the Sonnets of Shakespeare?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Time is a fascinating concept to consider in Shakespeare's Sonnets. Normally, time is presented in a manner that indicates it is the enemy of both the speaker and the people that he addresses his sonnets to, as he struggles to immortalise the beauty of his beloved and the love that he feels towards them in verse. Consider, for example, Sonnet 19, where time is personified in the very first line:

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,

And make the earth devour her own sweet brood...

Time is therefore pictured as some kind of monster or beast that "devours" those around it and takes away their life and energy through the passing of the years and eventual death. This is of course precisely what both the speaker and his beloved are forced to acknowledge, for, no matter how beautiful the beloved is today, tomorrow he or she will be old and grey and full of wrinkles thanks to Time's sovereignty over the human form. The sonnets, however, through their act of immortalising the beloved, clearly work to counteract the decaying impact of time and to triumph over its mastery.

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