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Symbolism in Shakespeare's Sonnets (Term Paper Sample)


The task required the writer to highlight the use of symbolism in Shakespeare\'s sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Analysis of Seasonal Symbolism
The sonnets had their onset in the thirteenth and fourteenth century. They were a form of mundane exaltation of the poet’s feelings towards a dedicated personality. These were mostly their lovers, family or patrons. They were offered up as a form of the barter system whence the exulted nobleman would ensure the poet flourished. Shakespeare’s sonnets were dedicated to a Mr. W.H. The said identity has never been discovered past the initials though many scholars suppose it was the earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesly, of whom he dedicated some of his earlier poems such as Venus and Adonis (Berryman 20). The assumption is furthered by the fact that Shakespeare addressed the sonnets to a man. This was common practice at the time and he explored a variation of romance in each sonnet. Shakespeare sought to express this love and other varied emotions through seasonal symbolism. He used summer, autumn, winter and fall. This essay will critically expound on his varied use of seasonal symbolism in his sonnets.
Shakespeare uses the symbolism of seasons and as such employs pathetic fallacy. The aim of his symbolism is to show feeling and emotion and as such imbues the label of pathetic fallacy. Pathetic fallacy is the explaining away of human emotion due nature and inanimate objects, like seasons too. The symbolism in the sonnets lie wherein the speaker explains away his absence from the male as it being due to the freezing December days.
The reunion is planned for a ‘pregnant spring’. This device has been used to explain the isolation of the two who are fond of each other. In explaining emotions, autumn has been shown to represent fear or trepidation while winter was a symbol of misery. April has also been seen as a symbol of joy. All this has been garnered from the lines in the sonnet. For example, the speaker represents fear or trepidation by autumn in the likening of himself to autumn. Autumn precedes winter where everything freezes over and dies i.e. death. Therefore his fear or foreboding is autumn, the season where everything begins to go awry in preparation for death/winter. “Proudpied April” arrives and yet the speaker is still sad because of the solitude (Sonnet 98). This shows the symbolism in the joy of April as being sad is depicted as being in contrast to the arrival of April. The speaker feels as though it were still winter, an indication of the relevance of winter in melancholy.  “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” is the beginning of Sonnet eighteen. The symbolism is in the fondness held for a summer’s day (Berryman 214). The brightness of the day merits enjoyment and affection. The symbolism continues in the poem whence he explains the young man’s superiority to a summer’s day in various ways. The ultimate conclusion is whence a summer’s day eventually fades and ends, the young man’s beauty is for eternity through poetry. The meaning here lies in the permanence of poetry.
Shakespeare uses seasons and the flora presented in each season as part of the seasonal symbolism. In the nature of summer in Sonnet 98 and 99, the flowers bloom. He then proceeds to capture the beauty of the young man as the blooming of the flower. He espouses that he is the source of the bloom of the flowers and their distinct sweet fragrance. The other floras used have been mainly to show the dynamism and transience of life. They show the depth of the seasons and the passing of time. Youth is inculcated in the use of foliage that is thriving and lush while the barren trees of winter show ageing and the morbidity of death (Sonnet 12). Spring is the onset of blooming flowers and thus the preferred season next to summer.
A good example of the symbolism is in Sonnet 73. "That time of year thou mayst in me behold / When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang". This is the first line of the sonnet and he clearly uses the symbolism of autumn. This Sonnet goes with the recurrent theme of the the passage of time and its ravages. It show the trepidation in question at growing old and using the analogy “time of the year” as an indication of the level in life at that particular moment. It compares the stages in life to the premises of time passage in nature (Feuillerat 49).The comparison with autumn is to show the bareness that has followed the existence of lush and rich foliage. Further down the line it is established that the whole Sonnet was an admonition for love to grow stronger with the passage of time. This is in the closing line, "This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong / To love that well which thou must leave ere long."
Sonnet 73 shows a general feeling of self pity in its enunciation. It represents the general timeline of the narrator and his feelings all...
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