Describe Shakespeare's Sonnet 19Discuss the speaker and meaning in "Sonnet 19."

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Sonnet 19" by William Shakespeare is a sonnet that deals with Time's power over human beings. No matter what we want and do in life, no matter our goals, dreams, and initiatives, they are all at the mercy of Time. Time rolls on and we have no say in the matter. Time ravages people, places, animals, and things. The steady, unrelenting movement of Time also plays with the mind of people, as they seek to achieve - knowing they will not live forever in this physical life here on earth.

The speaker in the sonnet recognizes that time has power over even the "powerful". As Post #1 states, Time has power over strong wild animals such as tigers and lions. The poet, in essence, is pleading with time to do whatever it will, but to refrain from making his beloved grow old. He does not want her physical body to experience the ravages of time - becoming wrinkled and such. He wants Time to stop its assault on his beloved, evidenced in the line...

     Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;

In the end, the sonnet conveys the message that no matter what Time does, the poet has immortalized his beloved's youthful beauty in this sonnet. With the words of this sonnet she will be preserved as forever young.



litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 19” is about time devouring everything in its path.  The speaker talks about the destructive power of time, and asks that it leaves his love’s features alone.

Time destroys the strongest, such as lions and tigers.   It can “make the earth devour her own sweet brood.”  Time moves quickly (“swift-footed”) and does whatever it wants.  The speaker begs time to “carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow”—or at least he forbids time to show on her face!  He wants her to remain lovely forever, and cannot bear to see her loveliness destroyed.

The poem ends defiantly.

Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

No matter what time does, his love will remain young because he writes about her, and she will remain as he writes about her, beautiful and young forever, and untouched by time.

Read the study guide:
Sonnet 19

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