William Shakespeare 's Sonnet 2 Essay

William Shakespeare 's Sonnet 2 Essay

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William Shakespeare just couldn 't leave the man alone. "Sonnet 2" is part of a 17-sonnet collection written to a young friend encouraging him to produce progeny. Also known as "the procreation sonnets" (Shmoop Editorial Team), the poet urges him to "marry and eternize his beauty through the engendering of children, [...] to conquer devouring Time" (Bevington 883). To attain immortality, to beat time, he needed to wed and pass his name on to an heir.

This collection of sonnets appears to be written by an overzealous parent. But in all fairness, that is just a cursory reading and understanding of the intent of the author. Due to the significance of producing an heir, there is a genuine concern and a sense of urgency for the poet 's young friend, who most importantly happened to be a nobleman, to produce an heir. As a nobleman, the game of life was a risky one. And, in this game, the "stakes" (Shmoop Editorial Team) couldn 't be higher. The most simplistic way for English nobility to pass on their vast amounts of wealth, lands, and titles was to produce a male heir.

Shakespeare wrote his sonnets in the 1590 's, and during this time there was an ever-growing and constant fear of families losing their nobility. Families were required to focus their resources to ensure that the right marriages were occurring, and subsequently a new generation was being produced. Families were "aware of such social mobility - of the extinction of old families and their replacement by new ones - appeared everywhere in Europe, just like the facts of disappearance and replacement themselves" (Dewald 18). In England, the fear that the poet 's young friend would not produce an heir was not unfounded as it was occurring all around them.
Historians have s...


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...rds, as "blood" is also a synonym for "decent, or lineage" (OED). The young man, in his old age, would take comfort and solace in the fact that while his time on Earth is shortened, his heir would carry on his name.

In "Sonnet 2", Shakespeare effectively foreshadows his young friend 's future, reminding him of what is to come as his youth slips away. At times, this prodding can be quite dark and gloomy. However, as typical of Shakespeare 's sonnets, it shifts moods and gives the nobleman a glimpse of what can be if he makes the prudent choice of marrying and beggetting an heir. The wordplay and imagery are rich, ranging from sieges, to treasure, to old age 's deep-sunken eyes, and finally and rebirth. This sonnet is definitely contemplative, as you really find yourself imagining what your own life will be like as you advance in years, and yet joy can still be found.

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