Analysis and Interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60

Seminar Paper, 2013

17 Pages, Grade: 1 (Sehr Gut)


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Preliminaries
2.1. Primary Text
2.2. Translation into German
2.3. Vocabulary
2.4. Phonetic Transcription

3. Story Level
3.1 Characters
3.2 Action
3.3 Temporal and Local Setting

4. Discourse Level
4.1 Story as viewed from a discourse perspective
4.2 External Form
4.3 Suprasegmental Level
4.4 Phonetic Level
4.5 Morphologic and Syntactic Level
4.6 Semantic Level
4.7 Tendentious Discursive modes

5. An Interpretation

6. Conclusion

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

In the following term paper I am going to analyse the sonnet 60 by William Shakespeare. The aim of this paper is to examine sonnet 60 in matters of its external form, its discourse and story level as well as its various different interpretations in general.

Due to the predetermined extent of this term paper I decided to focus primarily on the sonnet itself and targeted to provide an accurate description of the poem’s characteristic features, syntactic and semantic levels as well as its phonetics and how these factors influence the meaning of the sonnet. Therefore I will not go into details concerning the sonnet’s author William Shakespeare or the poem’s history of origins.

Nevertheless I engaged myself with some secondary literature in order to gain a broader insight into the matter of the subject. A list of literature, I used for this interpretation can be found in the bibliography below.

Along with this secondary literature the term paper is generally based on the information, provided by the power point presentation of the course Literary Studies 1 by Ao.Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Eva Zettelmann.

2. Preliminaries

2.1. Primary text: William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60

01 Like as the waves make towards1 the pebbled shore,
02 So do our minutes hasten to their end;
03 Each changing place with that which goes before,
04 In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
05 Nativity, once in the main of light,
06 Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
07 Crooked eclipses ’gainst his glory fight,
08 And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
09 Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
10 And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
11 Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
12 And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
13 And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
14 Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

2.2. Translation into German

01 Wie wenn die Wellen gegen die steinigen Gestade branden,
02 So eilen unsere Minuten ihrem Ende entgegen;
03 Jede nimmt den Platz der vorangegangenen ein,
04 In ständiger Mühsal zu Überdauern.
05 Geburt, einst aus dem Meer des Lichts,
06 Kriecht zur Reife heran, mit welcher sie gekrönt wird,
07 Doch trügerische Dunkelzeiten entgegnen ihrem* glorreichen Kampf,
08 Und Zeit, die gab, vergilt nun ihr* Geschenk.
09 Die Zeit durchbohrt das blühende Gebilde der Jugend
10 Und gräbt Parallelen in die Stirn der Schönheit,
11 Nährt sich an den Seltenheiten der Wahrheit der Natur,
12 Und nichts ersteht außer es ist für ihre* Sense zu mähen:
13 Und doch sollen zu Zeiten in Hoffnung meine Verse stehen,
14 Deinen Wert preisend, trotz ihrer* grausamen Hand.

Explanatory notes:

* I had the aim to translate this poem as coinciding as possible and tried to adapt and transfer the connotations of the original vocabulary to the German version. Of course, I also had to abide by the grammatical rules of the German language and therefore, I felt obligated to translate the masculine pronoun “his” in verse 7,8,12 and 14 with its feminine version in German. The pronoun “his” in sonnet 60 refers to “time” and this word, however, has the grammatical sex “feminine” in German.

2.3. Vocabulary

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten2

2.4. Phonetic Transcription

ˈlaɪk əz ðə weɪvz ˈmeɪk təˈwɔːdz ðə ˈpebld ʃɔː | ˈsəʊ də ˈaʊə ˈmɪnɪts ˈheɪsn tə ðeər end | iːtʃ ˈtʃeɪndʒɪŋ ˈpleɪs wɪð ðət wɪtʃ ɡəʊz bɪˈfɔː | ɪn ˈsiːkwənt tɔɪl ɔːl ˈfɔːwədz də kənˈtend |

nəˈtɪvɪti | wʌns ɪn ðə meɪn əv laɪt |

krɔːlz tə məˈtjʊərɪti | ˌweəˈwɪð ˈbiːɪŋ kraʊnd |

krʊkt ɪˈklɪpsɪz ˈɡenst ɪz ˈɡlɔːri faɪt |

ənd ˈtaɪm ðət ɡeɪv dʌθ naʊ ɪz ɡɪft kənˈfaʊnd |

ˈtaɪm dʌθ trænsˈfɪks ðə ˈflʌrɪʃ set ɒn juːθ |

ənd delvz ðə ˈpærəlelz ɪn ˈbjuːtiɪz braʊ | fiːdz ɒn ðə ˈreərɪtɪz əv ˈneɪtʃərz truːθ | ənd ˈnʌθɪŋ stændz bət fər ɪz saɪð tə maʊ |

ənd jet tə ˈtaɪmz ɪn həʊp maɪ vɜːs ʃə stænd | ˈpreɪzɪŋ ˈðaɪ wɜːθ | dɪˈspaɪt ɪz krʊəl hænd |

3. Story Level

3.1 Characters

The composition of sonnet 60 infers two characters. A speaker, who is presumably a poet, and the speaker’s addressee with whom the speaker seems to have a personal relationship. The nature of this relationship, however, is unknown. The connection between the two characters shows itself only in the last two lines of the sonnet. According to Greenblatt (2012:1170) it is very likely, that the addressee is a young man, with whom the speaker is spiritually in love and therefore wants to immortalize him through his written poetry.

3.2 Action

The speaker describes in figurative language how time is passing by and we are all contemned to age and, finally, die. He depicts life as fast moving and fading. One stage of life merges into another and, especially, youth and beauty are gifts, which seem to be given and taken at nearly the same time: “And Time that gave doth now his gift confound. / Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth” 3 Furthermore, he describes time as a cruel and relentless force of nature and substantiates his point of view by comparing human life with a ocean’s wave that slowly builds up and unavoidably crashes on the pebbly shore, which represents death.


1 William Shakespeare (1962/2012). “Sonnet 60” [1609]. In: The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Eds. Stephen Greenblatt, et al. 9th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton. 1176.

2 Oxford Dictionaries. [Online]. [2014, August 01].

3 Shakespeare. “Sonnet 60”: l. 8-9

Excerpt out of 17 pages


Analysis and Interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60
University of Graz  (Anglistik)
Proseminar Literary Studies (Poetry)
1 (Sehr Gut)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
782 KB
Shakespeare, sonnet 60, sonnet 60 analysis, poetry, interpretation, Shakespearean sonnets, sonnet 60 interpretation, Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, literary studies term paper
Quote paper
Iris Strimitzer (Author), 2013, Analysis and Interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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