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Sonnet 60 Analysis

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.

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

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

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...

(The entire section is 806 words.)