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  • Subject area(s): English Literature
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Rehn, Johanna, and Kerstin Shands. “Metaphors of Time: Mortality and Transience in Shakespeare's Sonnets.” 2009.

“Metaphors of Time” by Johanna Rehn covers the use of metaphor in regards to the themes of time, mortality and transience in Shakespeare's sonnets. Rehn primarily focuses on sonnets 60, 64 and 65 with a close reading as they are the sonnets that focus solely on these themes. Her main thesis revolves around the idea that in the sonnets, time itself is not moving, we simply notice the change in material things and characterize it with the passing of time. We do not notice time itself passing. For example, watching children growing into adults is an example she uses to further explain this. When we see the way children have grown we do not understand how time has passed so quickly without us noticing. Rehn writes that the metaphors Shakespeare uses are influenced by Shakespeare's time period. Death and disease were a prominent factor of life in Shakespeare's time, thus making it a force that could not be ignored. The author goes into detail of sonnet sixty and what it's title corresponds to. The title represents the number of minutes in an hour and the contents of the sonnet reflect the fleeting moments in life and how it gives us a sensation of hurry. In addition, she makes reference to the recurrent idea that Shakespeare does not want to accept the winds of change, but rather fight this violent passage of time using reproduction and everlasting poetry as "weapons" to preserve youth and beauty. His belief that poetry transcends time and space and can capture someone’s beauty and preserve it for eternity is a theme that this author focuses on in her writing. She writes "The decay of the material world makes us think about our own mortality. In nature we can see things come into bloom and eventually rotten, as a part of the seasons of the year." This reflects her general thesis.

Kaula, David. “‘In War with Time’: Temporal Perspectives in Shakespeare's Sonnets.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 3, no. 1, 1963, pp. 45–57. JSTOR, JSTOR,

““In War with Time”: Temporal Perspectives in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” By David Kaula covers the general idea of time and the metaphorical war that Shakespeare fights with time through his sonnets. He analyzes this theme primarily using the ‘young friend’ persona that Shakespeare makes reference to so often. He writes about the young friend’s symbolic role in the sonnets in fighting the impermanence of material things. He writes that, in order to compensate for the loss of material things over time, Shakespeare proposes that the young friend either make a copy of himself through his offspring, or he offers the “deathless verse” strategy, which is the idea that through art, specifically poetry, a person’s beauty and youth can be preserved eternally. This idea is analyzed by Kaula in sonnet eighteen. He writes about the idea of eternal summer as a metaphor relating to youth and beauty and its fleeting nature in sonnet eighteen. Although youth and beauty fades with time, by writing about this person in his poetry, Shakespeare’s belief was that their youthfulness will never fade because it has been captured in this “deathless verse.” In addition to these ideas, Kaula also visits the idea that, though both of these strategies cover the same general idea, the second strategy is more convincing than that of the first because producing offspring does not create an exact copy of the person, though physical aspects may be similar, the true essence of a person will not be captured in a child, the offspring of a person is nothing but a “sweet semblance” of the person, and will only further the person’s essence for one more cycle, rather than for eternity as is offered in the deathless verse strategy. The grand scheme of Kaula’s article mainly revolves around the ideas of eternal beauty in the form of poetry and the use of the young friend as a metaphor in Shakespeare’s sonnets.

 Flores Moreno, Cristina. “Time, Life and Death Metaphors in Shakespeare's Sonnets: The Lakoffian Approach to Poetic Metaphors.” Revista EspañOla De LingüíStica Aplicada, vol. 13, 1998, pp. 287–304.

“Time, Life and Death Metaphors in Shakespeare's Sonnets: The Lakoffian Approach to Poetic Metaphors.”  By Cristina Flores Moreno covers the idea that the metaphors used in Shakespeare’s sonnets are so highly personified that they almost reach the level of being characters. Time is seen as an “event with an agent.” The passage of time affects all things as though it is its own entity.  Moreno primarily analyzes the use of metaphor in Shakespeare’s language in comparison with the metaphors that we use in our everyday. Her piece focuses on the different kinds of metaphor that we use in everyday and draws examples from a variety of sonnets  She mostly covers the personification of time and uses many examples of this. One example that she uses is in regards to the loss of youth and beauty over time. “Yet do thy worst, old time.” (19, 13) In addition, there is an added metonymy through the image of a hand. This further personifies the idea of time by giving it human features. Lines like “His cruel hand.” (60,14) are a primary example of this. The author covers the use of imagery as metaphor in the sonnets as well. The imagery of skin wrinkling and hair turning grey being the most prominent and persuasive use of imagery in the sonnets because this is the most obvious and common way to identify the passage of time. Moreno’s article is an interesting take on the use of language in Shakespeare’s sonnets.

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