Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65

by Kiley Keagle, June 2014

300 words

1 page


Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65 is organized in such a way that the reader keeps guessing what the power that is able to stop the run of time and decay is. The answer is not revealed until the last two lines: “O, none, unless this miracle have might, /That in black ink my love may still shine bright/” (13-14). Here we see that the mighty power of love is compared to a miracle, which inspires the narrator to immortalize beauty in the lines of his sonnet. It can be understood from the metaphor “black ink” which arouses associations with written works, and poetry in particular. According to Helen Vendler images of this sonnet involve some kind of a contest or confrontation between beauty and Time (304). And in the first twelve lines we see a lot of examples of things that cannot oppose Time: “When rocks impregnable are not so stout/” (7), for instance. So, if rocks are not able to resist Time, what is left to beauty “whose action is no stronger than a flower? /” (4)? It can be saved only by ultimate power of love embodied in “black ink” (14) of writing talent.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines paradox as “a statement that seems impossible because it contains two opposing ideas that are both true” (1015). Linguistic glossary explains the same term as “a proposition that is or appears to be contradictory, but expresses some measure of truth”. Robert Matz claims that many of Shakespeare’s sonnets are full of paradoxes (147), and Sonnet 66 is a bright example of this piece of figurative language. Most of the lines contain opposites. They may appear in the form of antonymic pairs: “needy nothing” and “jollity” (3), “simple truth and simplicity” (11), “right” and “wrongfully” (6). Another way of representation of the paradox is description of inappropriate, illogical (paradoxical) actions which have been done to certain things: “And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,/ And right perfection wrongfully disgraced/” (5-6). According to the definition of paradox, mentioned above, contradicting ideas may both exist, but they should not be combined. The things in the sonnet also all exist, but their interaction is considered to be paradoxical. Another paradox used in Sonnet 66 is boundless pessimism, discouragement and desire to die at the beginning which is opposed to the existence of the reason to live, which appears in the last line: - “…my love/” (14).

Works Cited

Glossary of Linguistic Terms. Sil International. 2004. Web. 26 Sep. 2012

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. Longman. 1995. Print.

Matz, Robert. The World of Shakespeare’s Sonnets: an introduction. USA: McFarland & Company, 2008. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. 1609. Forgottenbooks, 2008. Web. 26 Sep. 2012

Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1997.



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