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'Sonnet 65' by William Shakespeare - Critical Appreciation and Explanations

 Sonnet No: 65

William Shakespeare

Critical Appreciation and Explanation

Sonnet 65 by William Shakespeare - Critical Appreciation

Q. Sonnet 65 by William Shakespeare - Critical Appreciation

Answer: Like the other sonnets in the series, Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 65, also, celebrate the beauty of the poet's friend. In the sonnet, 63, 64 and 65, the poet is sieged with the fear of the ‘sad mortality of the beauty of his friend. Strong and seemingly immortal things like brass, stone, earth, sea, rock and iron gates are subject to decay. So how can a fragile beauty like a flower withstand the ravages of time? There is no reason to keep the appeal of beauty permanence. Beauty is the gem of time and time will take it to the coffin and throw it into oblivion and death. The poet is, however, reassured by the thought that the poet’s verse can perform the miracle of immortalizing the beauty of the friend.

The sonnet is notable for its structural excellence and beauty. The point gives a list of some strong, impregnable, seemingly unbreakable, things like brass, stone, rocks, gates of steel; - again, he refers to the earth and sea as seemingly indestructible or permanent. But these things are wiped out in course of time. No one can bear the brunt of time.

The days of injury suggest a time attack on the citadel (steel door), the stone. The work ‘siege’ has the sense of besieging everything (this has reference to the ‘rocks’ and gates of steel’) by the crushing blows of time. Thus ‘Time’ is presented as a powerful invader and destroys. The brass, stone rocks, gates of iron are placed in opposition to the frail beauty and sweet breath of the poet’s friend. The poet is filled with dread at the thought that what will happen to the fragile beauty of the friend when such stout, firm and seemingly indestructible things cannot withstand the ravages of time.

Thus, some expressions are significant- rages, meaning ‘the ravages of time’ siege in the sense of attack on the citadel (gates of steel). The poet has used legal words- appeal, action etc.

A friend’s beauty cannot take an appeal or legal lawsuit to preserve her beauty. The term ‘action’ foreshadows ‘blockade’ war etc. Flowers are the common image of scarcity and weakness.

‘Summer’s honey breath’ means the sweet aroma of summer sweet (honey) or the sweet fragrance of summer flowers. The youth of the poet’s friend is compared to the sweet perfume or warm winds of summer. These are short lived and fragile.

Time chest is the coffin of time. Time throws everything too coffin suggesting oblivion and death. Time’s Precious jewel is the beauty with special reference to the poet’s friend. This is hidden in safe custody in order to protect it from Time’s ravages. But time takes it and casts it into its box that is coffin.

The poet seeks for a ‘hand’, (meaning, handwriting, poetry) ‘black ink’ that will perpetuate the beauty of the beloved. ‘Spoil of beauty’ has the excellent idea of time as a plunder who steals the beauty. ‘Black ink’ is juxtaposed with the word ‘shine' (be bright and pure). Sonnet 13- “His beauty shall in these black lines be seen”. The poet gives a number of significant images to suggest how beauty maybe attacked, broken, spoiled, and sullied. The poet’s beauty can be preserved by ‘black ink’. Black ink (poetry) is placed against the prescribed attack and the plunder of time. Black ink will defeat the power of destruction.

The structure of the sonnet has resemblance to the Petrarchan sonnet like 'Shall I Compare the to a Summer’s Day?' There is a change of thought in the ninth line: ‘O fearful meditation! where alack......’ The poet is thinking of the strong, stout things that are subject to decay and hopeless to think that the beauty of the friend has no ground for pleading, it’s beauty but, then he switches on to the thought of things that can withstand the ravages of time- particularly the word ‘hand’, occurs to him anticipating that poetry can stay the assault, or plundering of time. Thus, the couplet is strong as it provides a fitting conclusion that ‘black ink’ would make the beauty bright forever.

The poem has a symmetry of pattern and bold images to make distinct the poets idea of decay, death, and the conquest of death by the ‘miracle of poetry’.


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👉 Sonnet No. 65 by William Shakespeare - Central idea and Summary

👉 Sonnet No. 116 (William Shakespeare) - definition of 'Love'

👉 Thomas Kyd’s ‘The Spanish Tragedy’ as a revenge play

👉 The Faerie Queene - the portrayal of Good vs. Evil

👉 The Flea by John Donne as a metaphysical poem

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