The poet looks at the aging process, noting how everything passes from youth to old age and death.
Nothing can stop it, he says, except perhaps if we each breed lots of children, then we will live on through
ABOUT THE POET
William Shakespeare, commonly known simply as "The Bard", was born in April 1564. Although he lived
a mere 52 years, he has won himself the reputation of being the greatest of all English poets and
He grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon where, at the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway with whom he had
three children. Modern scholars love to question whether or not he was actually gay - but such is the
energy-sapping research of these scholars.
The Bard established a most successful career for himself in acting and in writing for the stage. Ultimately
he became the part-owner of The Lord Chamberlain's Men, a theatrical company which eventually
came to be known as The King's Men.
In his early years in theatrics, Shakespeare focussed his attention on writing comedies and histories. Only
later did he produce a series of tragedies such as Hamlet, Macbeth and King
Lear, the works for which he is preeminently known.
Although he wrote two lengthy narrative poems as well as several other shorter poems, his reputation as
a poet was established through his amazing collection of sonnets - 154 in all.
Indeed, his particular style of sonnet, commonly known as the Elizabethan form, is also referred to simply
as "the Shakespearian sonnet".
In about 1613, he returned to Stratford-upon-Avon and died there in April 1616. Scholars would later
come to question not only his sexual stance but also whether or not it was he who actually wrote all the
work attributed to him.
Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:
Apart from the fact that Shakespeare wrote this poem, how can we tell that it's a Shakespearian
"When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white."
- What is the theme of this quatrain? (2)
- The poet speaks of three measurements which reflect the passing of time. Explain what they
- Why does the poet "count the clock"? (4)
- Why should the day be "brave" whereas the night is "hideous"? (4)
- What is a "violet"? Why is it "past prime"? (4)
- What are the "sable curls"? Why would they be "silver'd o'er with white"? (4)
- What is the purpose of the apostrophes in "silver'd" and in "o'er"? (4)
This sonnet is often referred to as the "fertility sonnet". In what way can this be said to be true? (6)