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Theme Of Immortality In Literature Essay

1107 words - 5 pages

For centuries people have desired to transcend the limits of a temporary life, yearning for the ultimately unattainable goal of immortality. Poets have also expressed in their works the desire to remain as they are with their beloved despite time and death. Although William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” and Edmund Spenser’s “Sonnet 75” from Amoretti both offer immortality through verse, only Spenser combines this immortality with respect and partnership, while Shakespeare promises himself immortality as long as the sonnet continues to be read. Spenser debates with his lover, treating her as his equal as Shakespeare takes an egotistical approach to the topic and praises himself. However, both ...view middle of the document...

She says to him: “For I myself shall like to this decay,/ And eke my name be wiped out likewise” (7-8). She believes that just as her name is removed by the waves, her body will face the same fate at the hands of time. Nevertheless, he feels confident that he is able to immortalize his love through alternate means. Spenser writes: “My verse your vertues rare shall eternize,” (11). The poet believes that the poem he writes will be eternalized with time, and along with it so will its subject be immortalized.
William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” is chiefly concerned with the human desire to be remembered and immortalized in an attempt to defeat time. The poem suggests a strong awareness of the inevitability of death using images of the decay that accompanies time and emphasizing the destructive results of “wasteful war” (5). Traditionally, the octave presents the problem, which in this case is temporary life, and the sestet provides the solution to the dilemma of a fleeting existence. In the first eight lines of the poem, the speaking persona discusses the different forms of destruction likely to befall any physical attempt to immortalize the memory of a person. The following six lines present the sonnet itself as a successful means of immortalization. Shakespeare has the utmost confidence that his poems will be thoroughly enjoyed forevermore, “Ev’n in the eyes of all posterity / That wear this world out to the ending doom” (11-12). The anxiety running throughout the poem is not merely due to a fear of destruction, but the idea that all traces of the subject’s existence may be completely erased from history. The poem rejects feeble human attempts at preserving the memory of an individual through the building of monuments. The sonnet itself is represented as an indestructible vehicle of immortality. “You live in this,” (14), declares the speaker in the last line of the sonnet, suggesting that the poem itself will be preserved since it is immune to physical obliteration. The last line tells how the poem will achieve immortality by suggesting that despite time, this sonnet will always “dwell in lovers’ eyes” (14). This phrase suggests that while human beings and physical monuments are lost and forgotten, this verse will forever exist in the eyes of all...

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