Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 28, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 312

Sonnet 60 is a 1609 sonnet written by famed English playwright, poet, and actor William Shakespeare, who is known as one of the greatest writers in the English language and in world literature in general. Shakespeare wrote many plays which have timeless and immeasurable value; however, the Bard's sonnets are considered to be some of his most important and most influential texts in his entire literary opus. Shakespeare wrote 154 (untitled) sonnets in total, all dealing with various themes of love, youth, beauty, death, and human nature.

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Like the majority of his sonnets, Sonnet 60 is allegedly dedicated to a young man (often referred to as the "Fair Youth") whose identity remains unknown. It consists of fourteen lines written in iambic pentameter, which is a commonly used poetic technique that Shakespeare popularized. It is organized in a structure of three quatrains and one couplet and follows a basic rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

Commonly regarded as one of his best sonnets, Sonnet 60 is, essentially, the tale of a speaker who wishes to stop or influence time so that he can be with his beloved, a young man, forever. Aside from this, it's safe to say that Shakespeare wanted to tell the readers that there is no greater or more tragic battle than the one between humans and time. Thus, Sonnet 60 is, basically, a meditation on humans' existence, their mortality, and the nature of time. Typical of his style, Shakespeare uses several types of figurative language, such as personification and metaphor, and enriches his sonnet with beautiful imagery; time is presented as a destructive, unforgiving, and unbeatable force, and the lovers are its slaves. In the end, the speaker indirectly tells us that by writing of his beloved's youth, love, and beauty, he has immortalized the young man's story so that he can be eternally young and beautiful and live on through Shakespeare's poetic verses.

Forms and Devices

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 494

The frequent occurrence of s sounds in the first two lines (on no fewer than seven occasions) suggests the sound of the incoming waves as they break on the shore. The final two s sounds, in “minutes hasten,” are placed closer together than the others, and this suggests the increasing speed and urgency of the passage of time.

The second quatrain is remarkable because it fuses three distinct sets of images: child, sun, and king. “Nativity” is at once the birth of a child and the rising of the morning sun. The child that “Crawls to maturity” is also the ascending sun, and “crowned” suggests at once a king and the sun at its zenith in the sky. This thought would have come easily to an Elizabethan mind, at home with the idea of an intricate set of correspondences between the microcosmic world of man and the macrocosmic heavens. The same image occurs in Sonnet 33 and Shakespeare’s play Richard II (c. 1595-1596).

At this point of maximum strength and power, the man-king-sun faces an assault on his position, as “Crookéd eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight.” “Crookéd” suggests the plotting of rivals to usurp his crown; “eclipses” is an astrological reference, suggesting an unfavorable aspect in the heavens that will bring about the inevitable downfall of the man-king, as well as ensuring the downward passage of the sun as it loses its glory over the western horizon. “Crawls” (line 6) and “Crookéd” (line 7) are given added emphasis by the trochee at the beginning of each line and by alliteration, which also links them both to “crowned” at the end of line 6. The rising and falling rhythm of the final line of this quatrain, “And time that gave, doth now his gift confound,” sums up the idea conveyed in the first three lines.

The third quatrain is introduced by a trochee, “Time doth,” which gives notice that time is to be the direct subject of this part of the sonnet. Another trochee in the first foot of line 11 emphasizes the consuming aspect of time, and Shakespeare again makes use of a trochaic foot, “Praising,” in the first foot of the second line of the couplet. This paves the way for the defiant flourish with which the sonnet ends. The fact that the phrase “Praising thy worth” is followed by a caesura slows the line down and leaves this phrase echoing in the reader’s mind, a magnificent counterpoint to the “cruel hand” of time that the sonnet has labored to convey. Labored is the appropriate word here, since the struggle of all sublunary things depicted in this sonnet is hard and unrelenting. Images of struggle begin in the first quatrain, as the waves “toil” and “contend” with each other. The slow struggle of the man upward is suggested by the caesura placed after “Crawls to maturity,” and this struggle lasts far longer than his brief moment of glory, which dissolves after another fight.

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