Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Sonnets book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How should I recite Sonnet #12 by William Shakespeare?  With passion? Or perhaps mournfully? I have to recite my sonnet in front of class with expression.

Expert Answers info

jmj616 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write454 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History


Shakespeare's Sonnet #12 (like many of his sonnets) explores the troubling fact that beauty does not last forever.

Shakespeare gives several examples of how time and age spoil beauty, including:

a) "the brave day" sinks into "hideous night";

b) "lofty trees" become "barren of leaves";

c) "summer's green [grass and grain] all girded up in sheaves [bundles of dull-colored hay]."

All of this leads the poet to question the beauty of his beloved, because even she "among the wastes of time" must eventually go.

I wouldn't say that you should recite the poem in a mournful tone.  Rather, I would suggest a tone of philosophical resignation, a tone that suggests I know this is tough but this is how it is.

The end of the poem could be expressed with a touch of hopefulness, because there the poet finds one way out of the grip of time:

And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence

Save breed...

The word "breed" here refers to children; by creating children, a person can obtain a sort of eternity.

An important general note about reciting poetry:  Do not pause at the end of a line, unless it ends with a comma or period.  In this poem, that means that you should not pause at the end of line 13, because there is no comma or period or comma there.

Unlock This Answer Now