COMPLETE ANALYSIS OF SONNET 12
Shakespeare’s sonnets are a testament to his mastery of language and have been captivating readers for centuries. The intricate language, the complex themes, and the emotional depth of the sonnets continue to enthral readers even today.
You are reading the complete analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
Sonnets by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare is one of the greatest playwrights in history. He crafted a series of 154 sonnets which were published in 1609.
Sonnets are a form of poetry that typically consist of 14 lines. Shakespeare’s sonnets follow this basic structure. Each line of a Shakespearean sonnet is usually written in iambic pentameter. It has ten syllables and a specific stress pattern.
Shakespeare crafted his sonnets to showcase beauty, complexity, and emotional depth, earning them a reputation that endures to this day. They explore a wide range of themes, including love, beauty, time, mortality, and the nature of art.
SUMMARY OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
Sonnet 12 reflects on the destructive power of time and its impact on all things, including beauty, youth, and vitality. The poem begins with the speaker contemplating the passage of time as he counts the ticking clocks. The speaker mourns the end of each day as it succumbs to darkness, emphasizing the inevitability of death and decay.
The sonnet describes the physical signs of ageing and decay, using the imagery of the violet past prime, sable curls turned silver, and lofty trees barren of leaves. The speaker observes that even the once abundant summer’s green is now harvested and carried on the bier with a white and bristly beard.
Through this imagery, the speaker questions the permanence of beauty, knowing that all things must eventually fade and die. He suggests that even the sweetest and most beautiful things in life are fleeting and transitory, with growth and decay happening simultaneously.
The final couplet of the sonnet provides a solution to this dilemma. The speaker suggests that procreation is the only way to defend against time’s destructive power and to leave behind a lasting legacy. By doing so, one can hope to live on beyond the limits of time and mortality.
Overall, Sonnet 12 reflects on the transience of life and the inevitability of death. The poem urges us to appreciate the beauty of life while we can, knowing that only our legacy can withstand the power of time.
STRUCTURE OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare follows the traditional structure of an English sonnet. It consists of 14 lines divided into three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and a final rhyming couplet (two-line stanza).
The rhyme scheme of Sonnet 12 is:
- Line 1-4: ABAB
- Line 5-8: CDCD
- Line 9-12: EFEF
- Line 13-14: GG
In the first quatrain, the speaker contemplates time’s inevitability and its effects on both the natural world and man-made objects.
The second quatrain highlights time’s destructive power, as even the strongest and most beautiful things succumb to its slow erosion.
The third quatrain proposes that procreation can conquer time, as children allow people to leave behind a lasting legacy.
The final couplet is often used to sum up or comment on the theme of the poem. The use of the metaphor emphasizes that love, being eternal and immortal, will ultimately defeat time.
The couplet reads:
“And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence / Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.”
Overall, Sonnet 12 reflects on the passage of time and its effects on the natural world and humans, proposing that love and procreation offer a way to transcend time and leave a lasting legacy.
POETIC DEVICES IN SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 12 employs several poetic devices to convey its message and create an emotional impact on the reader. Some of these poetic devices include:
- Metaphor: The entire sonnet is a metaphor, comparing the passage of time to the ticking of clocks.
- Personification: The clocks are personified, as they are said to “wound” and to “run out” their “dial[s]”.
- Alliteration: “Whereon the stars in secret influence comment” uses alliteration with the repetition of the “s” sound.
- Repetition: The phrase “When I do count the clock” is repeated at the beginning of the first and third quatrains.
- Rhyme scheme: The sonnet follows the traditional rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
- Iambic pentameter: Each line consists of ten syllables, with the stress falling on every other syllable.
- Enjambment: Many lines of the sonnet use enjambment, where the thought and sentence carry on from one line to the next without a pause. For example, “And see the brave day sunk in hideous night” (lines 9-10).
- Imagery: The sonnet is full of vivid imagery, such as “the fearful passage of their death-marked love” (line 11) and “And art made tongue-tied by authority” (line 13).
ANALYSIS OF FIRST STANZA OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o’er with white;
This is the first stanza of Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare. It focuses on the destructive power of time, as it slowly erodes even the strongest and most beautiful things.
The first line establishes the theme of time and its measurement through clocks. The act of “counting the clock” suggests a deliberate effort by the speaker to measure the passage of time. The clock represents the objective measurement of time that is outside of human control.
The second line continues the theme of time and its effects on the natural world. The speaker observes the transition from day to night, with the “brave day” giving way to the “hideous night.” The contrast between these two states emphasises the passage of time and the inevitability of change.
The third line shifts the focus to the natural world, with the speaker observing a violet flower that is “past prime.” This image highlights the transience of beauty and the inevitability of aging and decay.
The final line continues the theme of ageing and decay, as the speaker describes “sable curls, all silvered o’er with white.” The metaphor of hair turning white with age emphasises the passage of time and the speaker’s awareness of his own mortality.
Overall, this stanza establishes a sense of loss and transience, highlighting the speaker’s awareness of mortality and the transient nature of all things. The use of sensory language and vivid imagery creates a powerful image of the passage of time and its effects.
ANALYSIS OF SECOND STANZA OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
This is the second stanza of Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare. In this stanza, the speaker continues to reflect on the passage of time and its effects on the natural world.
The first line describes “lofty trees…barren of leaves,” suggesting the onset of winter and the end of the growing season. The image of trees without leaves emphasises the transience of life and the inevitability of change.
The second line further emphasizes the passage of time and its effects on the natural world, with the image of summer’s green now “all girded up in sheaves.” This image of crops being harvested and stored for the winter highlights the cyclical nature of time and the importance of preparation for the future.
The third line contains the metaphor of summer being “borne on the bier with white and bristly beard.” This image of summer as an old man being carried to his death emphasizes the inevitability of aging and the passing of time.
The final line of the stanza continues the metaphor of aging and death, with the image of “beauty making beautiful old rhyme.” This suggests that even as beauty fades with age, there is still a kind of beauty in the passage of time and the inevitability of aging.
Overall, this stanza continues to develop the themes of the passage of time and its effects on the natural world and human beings. The use of vivid imagery and metaphor creates a powerful sense of loss and transience, while also highlighting the cyclical nature of time and the beauty of ageing.
ANALYSIS OF THIRD STANZA OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
This is the third and final stanza of Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare. In this stanza, the speaker reflects on the inevitability of the passage of time and its effects on human beauty.
The first line begins with a shift in focus, as the speaker turns from observing the natural world to reflecting on the beauty of a particular individual. The phrase “question make” suggests a sense of uncertainty or doubt about the future.
The second line continues the theme of time and its effects on beauty. The speaker observes that even this individual’s beauty will eventually fade and be lost among the “wastes of time.”
The third line contains the metaphor of sweets and beauties forsaking themselves and dying as fast as they see others grow. This suggests that even as beauty is constantly being renewed and regenerated, it is also constantly being lost and forgotten.
The final line as a whole emphasises the inevitability of ageing and death. The speaker suggests that even the most beautiful and sweet things must ultimately succumb to the passage of time.
Overall, this stanza brings the themes of the sonnet to a close by emphasising the inevitability of ageing and the transience of beauty. The poem employs metaphor and imagery to express the transience of beauty and the cyclical nature of time.
ANALYSIS OF LAST COUPLET OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
The last couplet provides a concluding thought to the sonnet and offers a solution to the inevitability of ageing and death.
The first line of the couplet asserts that nothing can defend against the destructive power of Time’s scythe. The scythe is used as a metaphor to represent the passage of time and how it impacts human life. This line suggests that the inevitable march of time cannot be stopped or reversed, and that all things must eventually succumb to its power.
However, the final line offers a solution to this inevitability. The speaker suggests that the only defense against the power of Time is to “breed” or procreate, creating a new generation to continue the cycle of life. This idea of passing on one’s legacy and creating new life is a common theme in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays.
Overall, the final couplet of Sonnet 12 offers a sobering reflection on the power of time and its effects on human life. It also suggests that the continuity of life can provide a kind of defence against the inevitability of ageing and death.
THEMES OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare explores several important themes related to the passage of time and the effects of ageing. Here are the main themes of Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare:
- Transience of beauty: The poem explores the idea that physical beauty is fleeting and will inevitably fade over time. It uses vivid imagery to illustrate the effects of ageing on natural and human-made phenomena.
- Cyclical nature of time: The sonnet emphasises the cyclical nature of time and the ways in which it affects both the natural world and human life.
- Power of time: The poem suggests that time is an unstoppable force that will eventually take everything in its path, including physical beauty and human life.
- Legacy and procreation: The final couplet of the sonnet suggests that the only defence against the power of time is to procreate and create a new generation. Thus, it highlights the importance of legacy and continuity of life.
Overall, Sonnet 12 is a meditation on the passage of time and its effects on human life. It emphasises the inevitability of ageing and the transience of physical beauty. The sonnet also highlights the cyclical nature of time and the importance of legacy and procreation.
SETTING OF SONNET 12: When I do count the clocks that tell the time
The setting of Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare is not explicitly stated in the poem. However, the imagery used in the sonnet suggests that the speaker is observing the natural world and the passage of time.
The first quatrain describes the speaker to be counting “the clock that tells the time” and observing the transition from day to night. It suggests that the setting may be outdoors and that the speaker is watching the sun set.
In the second quatrain, the speaker observes “lofty trees” that are barren of leaves and notes how summer’s green has been “girded up in sheaves.” It suggests that the setting may be a rural landscape during the autumn harvest.
The third quatrain continues the theme of observing the passage of time and the effects of ageing on natural phenomena, with the speaker reflecting on the transience of beauty.
Overall, the poem’s setting is depicted through natural imagery, with no specific location or time period provided, allowing for varied interpretation.