The Test of Time: An Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sixtieth Sonnet
“You may delay, but time will not,” remarked American inventor Benjamin Franklin. Franklin suggests that the relationship between people and time is a distant one because time is indifferent of the humans who rely on it. If one imagines himself walking alongside time, the natural rhythm of two moving together does not apply; if the person chooses to slow down, time will continue at its own pace regardless of its partner’s decision. The act of both independently, constantly moving ahead and leaving the person behind implies that the power of time is superior to the comparatively insignificant people who attempt to move with it. Shakespeare adopts a similar attitude towards the relationship between human life and time. He finds fault with time not for simply being powerful, but for wielding power cruelly. He concludes that time’s claiming of life cannot be escaped by any mortal being. In Sonnet 60, Shakespeare incorporates a varied meter in his metaphors of passing human lives to affirm man’s vulnerability towards time.
Shakespeare peppers his sixtieth sonnet with varied meters to develop metaphors involving time. The first two lines compare the impending mortality of man with the breaking of waves: “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,/ So do our minutes hasten to their end” (ll. 1-2). The lines begin with trochees, mimicking the crashing of waves upon the shore and upsetting the usually calm and steady movement of the ocean. After the jolting start, the lines continue with a regular, soft iambic meter, flowing smoothly until another line begins. Shakespeare’s waves head not for sand, but for pebbles—pieces of rock rounded by constant weathering, but still relatively large for a beach, where an endless blanket of soft, yielding sand is expected. Similarly, human lives subject to the daily passing of time have given way to it, but may not be aware of the perpetual presence of their...
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