Immortality in Literature

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For centuries people have desired to transcend the limits of a temporary life, yearning for the ultimately unattainable goal of immortality. Poets have expressed in certain poems 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” both present immortality through verse, only Spenser combines this wish for immortality with love and companionship, while Shakespeare promises himself immortality as long as the sonnet continues to be read. Spenser debates with his lover, treating her as his equal, whereas Shakespeare takes an egotistical approach to the topic and praises himself. Nevertheless, both Shakespeare and Spenser approach the subject in an original and individual manner. Spenser begins with a romantic situation and uses dialogue to convey the idea of surpassing the limits of time with his lover. Shakespeare addresses the reader with a monologue. Both William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” and Edmund Spenser’s “Sonnet 75” present the idea of the ability of poetry to immortalize and allow one to outlast time and death. 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 ... ... middle of paper ... ...Amoretti, the speaking persona is concerned with immortalizing his beloved using his verse. William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” views the immortality of poems similarly, but takes an entirely different approach. The speaker of “Sonnet 55” exudes confidence and egotism, claiming that his powerful verse will forever be immortalized due to future readers’ praise and admiration. As a result, the poet will also be immortalized through his writing. Spenser’s “Sonnet 75” and Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” both present the immortality of their author’s work. However, Spenser wishes to immortalize his beloved, while Shakespeare is the subject of his own sonnet and believes his immortality is imminent so long as the sonnet itself continues to be praised and remembered. Nonetheless, both Shakespeare and Spenser treat the subject of immortality with a creative and charming approach.
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