Stylistic Analysis of Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare

Topics: Madrid Metro, Metropolitana di Napoli, Poetry Pages: 14 (2490 words) Published: December 21, 2012
Introduction
In this paper, different perspectives of the nature of poetic language will be illustrated by using a stylistic analysis of a poem, „Sonnet 55‟, written by William Shakespeare (see Appendix for full poem). In the stylistic analysis, the use of sound and rhythm to convey complement meaning by Shakespeare will be in focus here.

Poetic function in poem
Poetic language is a type of language that commonly found in poetry1. According to Jakobson (1960), formalists believe poetic function of language is closely connected to literariness2. There are three perspectives to look at the literariness of poem including inherency, cognitive and sociocultural.

In inherency perspective, poetic function can be found within the poem intrinsically. It focuses on writer‟s skill in manipulating the sounds, words, phrases and overall linguistic form of the poem3. This always makes the poem foregrounded in the mind of the reader which is achieved by deviation and parallelism3. This perspective will be used in this paper.

In cognitive perspective, it focuses on the engagement of readers including how the readers comprehend the poems and relate to their past knowledge and experience3.
In sociocultural perspective, social and ideological factors are used to understand the role of poem in society as most of work of the literature takes particular social and historical reasons into account3. As a result, poetic can be changed over time.

1

Thornborrow, J. (2006) „Chapter 2: Poetic language‟ in Goodman, S. and O‟Halloran, K. The art of

English: Literary creativity, Palgrave Macmillan in association with The Open University. 2

Jakobson, R. (1960) „Closing statement, linguistics and poetics‟, in T. SEBEOK (ed.) Style in

Language, Cambridge MA, MIT Press, pp. 356.
3

Maybin, J. and Pearce, M. (2006) „Chapter 1: Literature and creativity in English‟ in Goodman, S. and

O‟Halloran, K. The art of English: Literary creativity, Palgrave Macmillan in association with The Open University.

1

Stylistic analysis
Stylistic is an approach to study, analyze and interpret a literature by using a linguistic perspective4. It can be used to make an assessment or evaluation of how good a text is by comparing with other texts. In the stylistic analysis of a poem, rhyme and meter, parallelism, deviation and foreground are the key poetic functions to be analyzed to assess its literary value.

Analysis of a selected poem
Sonnet 55 is a fourteen lines poem written by William Shakespeare (see Appendix for full poem) which is about time and immortalization and expresses his love towards a youth4.
Rhyme and meter
It is written in iambic pentameter and this is the most natural and common kind of meter in English5. The stressed syllable is bolded below:
Line
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
4

Poem
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers‟ eyes.

W ikipedia (2012) „Stylistics (literature)‟, Wikipedia. Available from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylistics_(linguistics) (Accessed on 26 October 2012). 5

Poetry for Students (1999) „Sonnet 55‟, Encyclopedia.com. Available from

http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-2691300028/sonnet-55.html (Accessed on 26 October 2012).

2

Shakespeare adapted the Italian sonnet form „ABBA, ABBA, CDC, DCD‟ to English by creating an alternate rhyme scheme „ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG‟.5 This poem has three...

Bibliography: Fineman, Kelly (2009) „Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare‟, Blogspot. Available
from
http://kellyrfineman.blogspot.hk/2009/09/sonnet-54-by-william-shakespeare.html
(Accessed on 26 October 2012).
Jakobson, R. (1960) „Closing statement, linguistics and poetics‟, in T. SEBEOK
(ed.) Style in Language, Cambridge MA, MIT Press, pp
Maybin, J. and Pearce, M. (2006) „Chapter 1: Literature and creativity in English‟
in Goodman, S
Mabillard, A. (2000) „An Analysis of Shakespeare‟s Sonnet 55‟, Shakespeare
Online
(Accessed on 26 October 2012).
Miller, A (2008) „Intro to Lit: Not Marble, Nor the Gilded Monuments‟, Blogspot.
(Accessed on 26 October 2012).
Poetry for Students (1999) „Sonnet 55‟, Encyclopedia.com. Available from
http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-2691300028/sonnet-55.html (Accessed on
26 October 2012).
Shapiro, M. (1998) „Sound and Meaning in Shakespeare‟s Sonnets‟, Language,
Vol 74, No
C=true (Accessed on 26 October 2012).
Short, M (1996) „Chapter 2: More on foregrounding, deviation and parallelism‟,
EXPLORING THE LANGUAGE OF POEMS, PLAYS AND PROSE, Longman, pp.
Short, M (1996) „Chapter 4: Sound, meaning and effect‟, EXPLORING THE
LANGUAGE OF POEMS, PLAYS AND PROSE, Longman, pp
8
Short, M (1996) „Chapter 5: Rhythm and metre in the reading of poetry‟,
Thornborrow, J. (2006) „Chapter 2: Poetic language‟ in Goodman, S. and
O‟Halloran, K
Wikipedia (2012) „Stylistics (literature)‟, Wikipedia. Available from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylistics_(linguistics) (Accessed on 26 October 2012).
Wikipedia (2012) „Sonnet 55‟, Wikipedia. Available from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet_55 (Accessed on 26 October 2012).
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