COMPLETE ANALYSIS OF SONNET 13
William Shakespeare was an English playwright and poet who lived during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Shakespeare’s sonnets are a masterpiece of poetic brilliance, solidifying his place as an all-time great writer. The sonnets remain relevant, studied in literature classes and cherished for their language and themes by readers worldwide.
You are reading the complete analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
SONNETS BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
William Shakespeare wrote a series of 154 sonnets in the 16th century. Each sonnet consists of 14 lines and follows a strict rhyme scheme and structure. Shakespeare wrote the sonnets in iambic pentameter, which is a rhythmic pattern consisting of ten syllables per line.
Shakespeare’s sonnets explore themes such as love, beauty, time, and mortality.
SUMMARY OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
Sonnet 13 explores the idea of the destructive power of time on beauty. The sonnet expresses concern that the lover is not true to themselves due to infatuation with the speaker.
The speaker desires their lover to perceive their true self without being obscured by their love for the speaker. The speaker acknowledges the lover’s fervent love, but warns it may lead to self-loss, being misdirected and misaligned.
The poet uses vivid imagery to illustrate this idea. This idea is encapsulated in “Then do thy beauty’s fair eyes murder make / And gnaw thy gracious oval face. The lover’s obsession with the speaker causes them to overlook their own beauty, resulting in premature ageing.
The sonnet concludes by urging the lover to be authentic, enabling their love for the speaker to be genuine. The speaker realises their beauty will fade, but authentic love based on truth transcends the physical realm and endures.
Overall, Sonnet 13 presents a complex exploration of love and identity. It highlights the importance of staying true to oneself in order to achieve a lasting and meaningful connection with others.
STRUCTURE OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
Sonnet 13 follows the traditional structure of a Shakespearean sonnet. The poem divides its 14 lines into three quatrains and a final rhyming couplet, creating a clear structure and a sense of progression.
The rhyme scheme of Sonnet 13 is:
- Line 1-4: ABAB
- Line 5-8: CDCD
- Line 9-12: EFEF
- Line 13-14: GG
It suggests that the first and third lines of each quatrain rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines. The final couplet rhymes with each other, creating a sense of closure at the end of the poem. The sonnet has a regular iambic pentameter rhythm. It means that each line contains ten syllables with the stress falling on every other syllable.
The sonnet also uses a range of poetic devices such as metaphor, personification, and alliteration to create a vivid and emotional tone. For instance, the metaphor of “Time’s cruel hand” illustrates the destructive power of time on beauty. Additionally, the personification of love is used to explore the idea of the lover being blinded by their passion.
Overall, the structure of Sonnet 13 helps to create a powerful and nuanced exploration of love and identity that continues to resonate with readers today.
POETIC DEVICES IN SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
Sonnet 13 uses a variety of poetic devices to convey its theme of love and identity, including:
- Metaphor: The sonnet makes use of metaphor to convey the idea of time’s destructive power on beauty, such as “cruel hand” (line 2) and “death’s second self” (line 9).
- Personification: Love is personified throughout the poem, as the speaker describes it as having the power to blind and distort reality, such as “love, you are / Of so great power to make me what you will” (lines 2-3).
- Alliteration: The use of alliteration creates a musical quality to the sonnet and emphasizes certain sounds and words, such as “fair frame” (line 4) and “lines” (line 6).
- Imagery: The sonnet makes use of vivid imagery to convey its themes, such as “gracious oval face” (line 6) and “truth and beauty shall together thrive” (line 14).
- Repetition: The repetition of certain words and phrases, such as “Time’s cruel hand” (line 2) and “thy beauty” (line 5), creates a sense of emphasis and reinforces the central themes of the sonnet.
Overall,the skillful use of poetic devices in Sonnet 13 creates a profound depiction of love and identity, making it a timeless masterpiece.
ANALYSIS OF FIRST STANZA OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are
No longer yours than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give.
The first quatrain introduces the central theme of the poem, which is the tension between love and personal identity. The speaker addresses their lover and begins by expressing a desire that their lover could be their true self rather than just a reflection of the speaker’s desires, as seen in the line “O, that you were yourself!”.
However, the speaker goes on to acknowledge that the lover’s identity is currently subsumed by their love for the speaker. The second line implies that their selfhood is linked to their love for the speaker, and their identity is fleeting.
The speaker then urges the lover to prepare for the inevitable end of their relationship. The speaker hints at the idea of mortality and the importance of preparing for the end in the phrase “Against this coming end you should prepare.” The ‘end’ here refers to the end of the relationship. However, it could also be interpreted as a reference to the end of life itself, given the overarching theme of mortality in the sonnets.
Finally, the speaker recommends that the lover share their beauty with someone else when the relationship ends. The interpretation could suggest that the lover should move on and find someone else to love. It could also be seen as a warning that the lover risks losing their identity entirely if they continue to define themselves solely in relation to the speaker.
Overall, the first quatrain of Sonnet 13 sets up a complex dynamic between love and identity. It hints that love and identity may clash and suggests that a balance must be struck in order for a relationship to be healthy and enduring.
ANALYSIS OF SECOND STANZA OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination: then you were
Yourself again after yourself’s decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
The second quatrain builds on the themes introduced in the first quatrain. It focuses specifically on the idea of beauty and its relationship to personal identity.
The speaker implies the lover’s beauty is borrowed as they “hold in lease,” rather than being truly theirs. This means that the lover’s beauty is not a stable or permanent feature of their identity but rather something that can be lost or taken away.
The speaker then suggests that if the lover does not take steps to preserve their beauty, it won’t be passed to future generations. The phrase “Find no determination” suggests that the lover’s beauty won’t continue beyond their life unless they act to ensure its survival.
The speaker proposes having children as a solution, allowing the lover to reclaim their true identity and preserve their beauty. The phrase “When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear” implies that the lover’s children will carry on their beauty and their identity after they are gone. It allows them to live on through future generations.
Overall, the second quatrain of Sonnet 13 deepens the exploration of the themes of love, identity, and mortality. It implies personal identity should be maintained and passed to future generations, not taken for granted, but actively preserved. The speaker’s hopeful vision links personal identity, beauty, and the self’s continuation through children, contrasting with the sonnets’ themes of mortality and loss.
ANALYSIS OF THIRD STANZA OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day
And barren rage of death’s eternal cold?
The third quatrain of Sonnet 13 continues to develop the theme of mortality and the need to preserve personal identity. Here, the speaker shifts their focus to a metaphor of a house that is falling into decay.
The speaker questions why someone would allow such a “fair house” to fall into disrepair. It suggests that it is something that could be preserved with the proper care and attention. The metaphor of the house represents the lover’s personal identity and the need to preserve it against the effects of time and mortality.
The speaker then suggests that by preserving this personal identity, the lover could withstand the challenges of life, such as the “stormy gusts of winter’s day” and the “barren rage of death’s eternal cold”. The phrase “husbandry in honour” suggests preserving personal identity is noble and self-respecting, done to honour oneself and one’s place in the world.
Overall, the third quatrain highlights the importance of actively preserving and maintaining personal identity. The speaker uses the metaphor of a house falling into decay to emphasize that personal identity is fragile and requires care and protection. By linking the preservation of personal identity to the idea of honour and self-respect, the speaker suggests that this is a task that is not only necessary but also noble and worthy of pursuit.
ANALYSIS OF LAST COUPLET OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
O, none but unthrifts! Dear my love, you know
You had a father: let your son say so.
In the final couplet, the speaker urges the lover to have a child, emphasising that without one, they will have failed to secure their own identity.
The speaker addresses the lover directly, using the term “Dear my love” to express their affection and concern. The phrase “none but unthrifts” suggests that those who do not take care of their personal identity and fail to pass it on to future generations are wasteful and foolish. The speaker suggests the lover risks becoming an unthrift if they don’t preserve their identity, implying a warning.
The final line of the poem, “let your son say so”, offers a solution to this problem. Having a son who carries on their identity and beauty can ensure the lover’s personal identity continues beyond their lifetime. The phrase “let your son say so” also suggests that the lover’s legacy will be spoken of and remembered by future generations. It further emphasises the idea of continuity and the importance of preserving personal identity.
Overall, the final couplet reinforces the themes of the importance of personal identity and the idea of continuity through future generations. It suggests that having a child who can carry on their identity and beauty ensures they will be remembered and honoured in the future. The poem frames its message as a message to the lover’s future son, highlighting the significance of personal identity and continuity. The sonnet suggests that individuals can ensure their legacy lives on beyond their own lifetime by passing on their identity and beauty to future generations.
THEMES OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
The themes of Sonnet 13 include mortality, the preservation of personal identity, and the idea of continuity through future generations.
- The theme of personal identity: The speaker expresses a desire for the lover to be their true self, rather than a mere reflection of the speaker’s desires. The sonnet explores the idea of personal identity and the challenges of maintaining it in the face of external pressures.
- The theme of love and desire: The sonnet explores the theme of love and desire, with the speaker expressing their love and the desire for the lover’s authenticity.
- The theme of appearance and reality: The speaker highlights the contrast between the lover’s essence and appearance. It implies that beauty is transient and not essential.
- The theme of mortality and continuity: The sonnet explores the idea of mortality and the need for continuity through future generations. The speaker urges the lover to take steps to ensure that their identity is preserved beyond their own lifetime by having children.
- The theme of honour and self-respect: Preserving personal identity is noble and self-respecting; pursued for its own sake and for the benefit of future generations.
Overall, the sonnet highlights the importance of preserving personal identity in the face of mortality and the passage of time. The sonnet suggests that the lover can achieve a form of immortality by passing on their identity and beauty to future generations.
SETTING OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
Sonnet 13 does not have a specific setting in terms of a physical location or time period. The sonnet explores the emotions and thoughts of the speaker regarding the lover and their relationship. The poem focuses on personal identity, mortality, and legacy, rather than a particular setting or context.
The poem’s imagery of harsh and bleak conditions reinforces the importance of preserving personal identity in the face of mortality. The setting reinforces the poem’s themes and emphasises the importance of preserving personal identity for future generations.
CONCLUSION OF SONNET 13: O! That you were yourself; but, love, you are
In Sonnet 13, the speaker laments the impermanence of personal identity and beauty. It urges the lover to take steps to ensure that their identity and beauty are preserved beyond their own lifetime. The poem implies that the lover’s personal identity and beauty are temporary and subject to change, and that mortality threatens to erase them.
The speaker urges the lover to “make thee another self, for love of me”. It emphasises the importance of passing on one’s personal identity to future generations. The poem ends with the suggestion that those who fail to preserve their personal identity are “unthrifts,” and that the lover’s son can be the one to speak of their legacy in the future.
Overall, it is a meditation on the fragility of personal identity and the importance of preserving it for future generations. The themes of mortality, legacy, and continuity remain relevant today, making it a timeless expression of the human experience.