Analysis of Sonnet 81

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Anne Poindexter
11/18/12
English IV
Mr. Tiller

Analysis of Sonnet 81

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 81 was meant to serve as an epitaph to immortalize its subject, a beloved youth. One of the themes of this sonnet is immortality through writing. Shakespeare claims that, “When all the breathers of this world are dead/ You shall live--such virtue hath my pen.” Shakespeare never mentions the name of his immortal subject, so in reality, no one remembers him. Although Shakespeare claims that, “The earth can yield me, but a common grave,” he in fact did achieve immortality through his poetry. Another theme of this sonnet is glorifying oneself through writing. Shakespeare is confident that “Tongues to be your being shall rehearse,” which means that future generations will recite his poetry. Not only is he exalting his beloved subject, but he’s also exalting the power of his own words and immortality.

The structure of the poem contributes to the theme because the sonnet is meant to serve as an epitaph which immortalizes its subject. Shakespeare chooses to give immortality to his subject in a form that is short enough to fit on a gravestone. Shakespeare wants future generations to see his work through his subject’s epitaph and remember it. So in this way, using his sonnet as an epitaph is also glorifying Shakespeare himself and contributing to his immortality.

Shakespeare also uses figurative language and sound patterns to contribute to his themes of immortality and glorification by writing. He does this by using metaphors such as, “Your monument shall be my gentle verse,” which compares his writing to a gravestone. Shakespeare also personifies both death and the earth, saying, “From hence your memory death cannot take.” Shakespeare is comparing death to someone or something that can take memory away. Shakespeare makes several plays on words involving death and immortality saying, “When you entombed in men’s eyes shall lie.” Shakespeare is comparing his...
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