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Shakespeare And Immortality

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Shakespeare And Immortality Essay, Research Paper

The search for immortality has troubled philosophers since the dawn of human

race. Numerous historic figures, including Ramses XV of Egypt and Julius Caesar

of Rome, have tried to achieve physical immortality through various superficial

measures. Magicians of the ancient kingdoms have struggled to find a way to stop

the aging process of a human being. All those attempts have proved to be

unsuccessful and as of today there is no proven method that enables a person to

live forever. However, the Renaissance age brought radical changes to human

perception of life. No longer a person could remain passive about the course

that their life takes. Renaissance man was expected to strive for higher

achievements in every aspect of life. This included political, financial and

cultural aspects. These ideas paved way for a new concept of immortality -

immortality through art. Da Vinci painted ?Mona Lisa? and became immortal

through legacy that he left behind him. Beethoven wrote his ?5th Symphony?

and he is still remembered for it. These ideas of eternal life were mirrored in

poetry of William Shakespeare – the Renaissance man of England. In a number of

his sonnets Shakespeare talks about immortality from diverse points of view. It

is a wonder how Shakespeare can take an issue and approach from different

perspectives and each time the same issue is presented in new light, and charged

with new emotions. There are two basic ways in which Shakespeare relates to the

idea of immortality. In first approach the author describes eternal life through

a chain of comparisons and multiple meanings of the same words. In sonnet number

5 poet associates a person with a flower. A flower that is beautiful in its

younger years yet as the time Will play the tyrants to the very same, And that

unfair which fairly doth excel; (5.3-4) it makes unattractive that which now

excels in beauty, and eventually leads to flower?s death. The sonnet goes on

to mention the process through which fragrances are extracted from flowers, and

it further states that even after the flower is long gone, it is remembered

every time someone recognizes its sweet smell. In this poem, Shakespeare makes a

direct comparison with real life, because just as a plant is remembered for its

attractive smell, people are remembered for their good deeds even long after

their death. Similar ideas are presented in sonnet number 54. In this sonnet the

author talks about people who are beautiful on the outside, but empty and

unattractive inside. The poet states that as life goes on, the outer beauty

fades, and death follows, and only those people who were more then empty shells,

will be remembered. And so of you, beauticius and lovely youth, When that shall

fade, by verse distills your truth. (54.13-14) Another way through which

Shakespeare perceives immortality is by writing directly about it. There is a

number of poems in the author presents eternal life in plain and precise

language. In sonnet number 15 the author says, And all in war with time for love

of you, As he takes, I engraft you new. (15.14-15) It is obvious that what poet

means is that even though time makes people older, poetry can rejuvenate a

person by bringing back memories about the past. It can even resurrect a dead

person in human mind, every time that the poem about that person is read. In his

writings, Shakespeare truly believes that poetry brings immortality to people.

In sonnet number 16 he writes, But wherefore do not you a mightier way Make war

upon this bloody tyrant, time, And fortify yourself in your decay With means

more Blessed the my barren rhyme (16.1-4) thus asking a simple question, ?What

better way to immortalize yourself then through poetry?.? Eternal life seems

to be perceived by the writer as a gift from beyond, a blessing that only a few

chosen will receive. It can be traced further in sonnet number 18, which states

that once a poem about someone is written, that person is immortal for as long

as human eyes can see. This is a very optimistic approach to poetry but it

raises some questions. Besides the fact that a person must be able to see in

order to read, a person should also have at least nominal interest in what he is

reading. Shakespeare tends to overlook this fact. Finally in Sonnet number 55

the writer states, Not marble nor the guilded monuments Of princes shall outlive

the powerful rhyme, (55.1-2) This is a direct statement, that says loud and

clear that even after the greatest of deeds are destroyed by time and forgotten,

poetry will still remain a part of human folklore. Nothing can destroy a word

because it is not a material subject. The concept of immortality through legacy

is described colorfully in the sonnets. The author uses various techniques to

approach the issue. He employs comparisons as well as direct language. The ideas

presented in Shakespearean poems are clear examples of changes in human

mentality that occurred during Renaissance period of European history. The

poetry of William Shakespeare is coherent with and reflective of, the time epoch

of its production.

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