Themes in Sonnet 55

Themes Examples in Sonnet 55:

Sonnet 55 6

"memory..."   (Sonnet 55)

Because the youth’s image is preserved in the intangible space of “living record,” or people’s minds, it is the idealized version of the youth. He is an imagined perfect essence rather than physical replica.

"yourself arise..."   (Sonnet 55)

In acknowledging that the youth will “yourself arise,” the speaker acknowledges that the youth will have died. This is the first instance in the sonnet sequence in which the speaker explicitly affirms that his claims to preserve the youth against time are to preserve his essence alone in his poetry. The speaker fully faces the reality of the youth’s eventual physical death.

"ending doom..."   (Sonnet 55)

The rapid, unrelenting passage of time is one of the central themes in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, arising in nearly every poem. The treatment of time in Sonnet 55 is unique in that the speaker alludes to the coming Judgment Day, a point when time ceases. In the Christian tradition, Judgment Day marks the end of the world, when God will sort all souls, living and dead, into their proper places in heaven and hell. This sense of time coming to an end reframes the poet’s mission. The speaker’s task is not to preserve the fair youth’s memory forever, but to do so until Judgment Day.

"living record..."   (Sonnet 55)

Because the youth’s image is preserved in the intangible space of “living record,” or people’s minds, it is the idealized version of the youth. He is an imagined perfect essence rather than physical replica.

"rhyme;..."   (Sonnet 55)

Throughout the sonnet sequence, it is common for the speaker to make reference to the poem itself as a vehicle of memorialization. Sonnet 55 is notable in that the speaker makes this move in the opening quatrain, immediately cluing the reader into the poetry’s central thematic role.

"living record..."   (Sonnet 55)

The speaker claims that effective poetry represents a “living record” of its subject. This is his strongest argument for poetry’s power over stone and statue. Poetry is, after all, both a written and oral form. The idea is that a “powerful rhyme” such as this will live on because it exists as both written and “living record,” rendering it impermeable to the destructive powers of war and natural decay. The musicality of the previous line, with its rich internal rhymes, bolsters this argument for the poem’s effectiveness as an oral form.