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Sonnet 106 focuses on the passing of time in regards to eternal beauty. Shakespeare’s diction, sentence length, and meter all contribute to the feeling that time is passing extremely slowly.
Words like chronicle, wasted time, antique, prophecies, and prefiguring all add a chronological element to the sonnet, and Shakespeare uses them to lead up to “these present days” by the end of the poem. The word wight was archaic even in Shakespeare’s lifetime, and he used this word to create a feeling that ancient beauty was still relevant. That beauty was still relevant because it was prophesied of, “Of this our time, all you prefiguring.” These words leave notions of older times that have passed and will continue to pass—this element of continuation is also seen in the sentence structure.
- · For some reason the source I had for this idea is now “unretrievable” by the HBLL and I didn’t save the PDF, so I have no actual quotes and can’t find the article anywhere else. However, I do have the MLA citation.
- · Evans, Robert C. "Sonnet 106." Critical Survey of Shakespeare's Sonnets.Hackensack: Salem, 2014. n. pag. Salem Online. Web. 12 Sep. 2016. <http://online.salempress.com>.
The entire sonnet is composed of only two sentences. The first 8 lines are the first sentence, and the remaining 6 lines are the second sentence. By using long, run-on sentences with many ideas, the speaker lengthens each thought to an almost painful, drawn out description of beauty. The volta occurs at this sentence break, and the second sentence introduces a shift in thought from writings of an older time to the current writings of the time. This adds to the feeling the time is passing with each line, and the subject is getting older, yet staying just as beautiful as at the beginning of the poem. The passing of time is also represented in the disrupted meter of these two sentences.
The iambic pentameter creates the feeling that time is still steadily moving forward, but coupled with the word choice and sentence structure creates a feeling of plodding along. This lagging feeling can also be attributed to the disrupted iambic rhythm in lines 5 and 14. The lines are in a different, and seemingly random, rhythm that breaks up the stable flow and slows down the actual reading of the poem. The rhythm of these two lines is, however, similar.
- · Line 5: Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty’s best
- · Stressed, unstressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, unstressed, stressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed.
- · Line 14: Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.
- · Stressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed, unstressed, stressed, stressed, unstressed stressed.
In some ways, this poem is similar to Sonnet 130. The descriptions of beauty unparalleled and mentions of time are scattered throughout both sonnets. However, in Sonnet 130, the syllabic structure works to quicken the read rather than shortened. In Sonnet 106 there are many monosyllabic words and each one must be enunciated. However, in Sonnet 130 most lines are words that are multiple syllables each, and thus carry the ideas along faster. By looking at this comparison, we can see that Shakespeare had a firm grasp on the function of time within his sonnets.