Analysis of the Tone Shift and Literary Devices Shakespeare Used in Sonnet 30

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30, he describes what it’s like looking back on life. In the sonnet, Shakespeare focuses on how people may waste their time, purposefully experience pain, the things they’ve lost, the asking to let them go through pain. He also at the end displays to his friend how much they mean to him through these sorrows.

In the first quatrain he starts off the sonnet with a happier tone, than what will continue throughout the majority of the sonnet, with the word sweet to describe his thought. This depicts that he looks forward to his sessions of thought, even though at the beginning he experiences pain, expressed later in the sonnet. The word session means a period of time dedicated to a particular activity, which depicts that he schedules time for thought which bring him to pain, so this person may be self detrimental. It also is indicative that he has done this multiple times, as it is plural adding to this theme. This is interesting as Shakespeare may be saying that humans are self detrimental, and they look back on the past thinking about what they could’ve had.

The alliteration of the “s” in the first line could be putting emphasis on the “silent thought” in line 1. In the second line he summons up the memories, which means that they could be in the depths of his memories, that would not naturally come up, unless he purposefully brings them up. This continues the theme that he is purposefully continuing self destructive behavior. The word “things” in line 2 generalizes the type of memories, so it could be good or bad memories from the past, but throughout the rest of the poem, except the last two lines, it is hurting memories. This could be exemplifying that maybe humans focus on the bad things way more then the good things, even though they have the choice. There is then a shift in tone from the almost happy tone of the first two lines to a depressingly painful tone, with words such as sigh, and lack. A sigh can indicate depression, longing, and pain, which gives a visual into his facial expression during this. The shift in this tone indicates the beginning of his memories that cause him pain.

There is a theme of regret shown with the word combination, lack and sought, displaying that he has not accomplished everything he wanted to in life. Also this might display that he is close to death, because he will not be able to get those things anymore. The word choice of “many a thing” in line 3 instead of “many things”, further conveys that he is only focusing on the bad thing, when he has the choice to think about anything. There is also an extra syllable variating off iambic pentameter, possibly further emphasizing that he wanted more with his life. In the next line the alliteration of the “w” creates a sound of actual crying, which mimics the text, “wail” in line 4. The use of opposites of “old” and “new” in line 4 conveys one of the major themes repeated throughout the rest of the poem, that he is suffering for his memories twice. He describes his time as “dear”in line 4, meaning he cares about it deeply. However, he believes he has wasted it through his old woes, but ironically he is going through the woes again by thinking which could be considered wasting his time even further, instead of actually going out there to get what he wanted.

There is another shift starting the second quatrain, but this time in subject matter to describing the physical things that happen to him, and what he has lost over the years. In the next line he depicts even further the pain that comes from recounting his memories. The word “drown” in line 5 is used as a synecdoche for the profuse amount of tears, but it normally has connotations of death. This could possibly mean that he feels this sadness is consuming him, and killing him. He also doesn’t cry often which further emphasizes the wailing he is experiencing that is nearly killing him. In the next line there is an alliteration with the “d” in “death’s dateless” in line 6 which is being used to accentuate that death is forever, and how he will never see his friends again. “Night” in line 6 can be used as a metaphor for death, which is used to strengthen the loss of his friends. In the next line the use of “afresh” and “long” in line 7 depicts that he is suffering again for something that ended a while ago.

The use of “cancell’d” in line 7 further adds to this, it shows that he had recovered from it, but these sessions have caused them to come back up, depicting the possibility of self detrimental activities. This probably also demonstrates that the love was broken because she ended it, and he probably has not found it again. This is because he refers to the person at the end as “friend” in line 13, and normally that is not someone people would say they love, adding to his loss. In the next line he continues his theme of loss which is causing him pain with the use of “vanished sight” in line 8. Again he is utilizing the singular form with “many a vanished sight” in line 8 which shows he is focusing on one thing, the thing he has lost, but not the things that he has gained. The word “moan” in line 8 almost does sound as if he is actually moaning mimicking the text. As well as this expense back then, obsolete now, would have meant loss of possession, which conveys those things he has lost that he can no longer find.

There is yet another switch in the third quatrain where he questions if he can be sad about things that have happened before. The use of the word “can” frames this third quatrain as a question even though it does end in a period, which probably signifies a rhetorical question in the first line. This would signify that he wants to not be judged by others for his tears about his past, usually done as a rebuttal he could be expecting. It conveys that he might actually want to look back, and therefore experience pain since he knows the effects with words such as “sad”, “woe”, “moan”, and “grieve.” From here there is repetition of the type of word “grieve” to convey the act of grieving again in line 9. In the next line he continues this same idea with “woe.”

The word “heavily” in line 10 is used as an adverb to emphasize how hard it is to tell, but yet because it is in a rhetorical question it seems like he wants to do this.. This depicts that he knows he has a hard time going through his woes but wants to anyway shown through his tone. In the next line there is repetition of “fore-bemoaned moan” which creates a sound of moaning, as well as emphasizing the action he takes when thinking back in line 11. In the next line he also continues this with the contradiction of “new” and “before” with the same action. It as if he wants to suffer again with his rhetorical tone.

There is another shift in the tone indicated by the word “but” to a more contented tone in the last couplet. The contented tone is shown through words such as “dear”, “restor’d”, and “sorrows end” in lines 13 and 14. In line 13 he describes the friend as “dear” the same way he described his time, depicting that he cares for them deeply, but this use of repetition could mean that he also wastes his friend by not spending enough time with them.

The memories of the friend have to be semi surreal as he talking to them with the word “thee” in line 13, and the pain ends when he thinks of them. This depicts that through this he wanted to demonstrate just how much this friend means to him. What is interesting is that in the last line there is no indication on whether he is actually happy, as all the “sorrows end” in line 14 which depicts he doesn’t feel pain anymore, but that does not depict happiness. The callback to the “losses” which describes everything he’s lost or wishes he had, says he has made up for those, alleviating the pain, so it leaves the person contented that at least his friend is there for him. This is what the main purpose of a sonnet is, to commemorate a friend mostly back in this time period.

This is probably the best scenario as being content with his life is possibly all he could ask for. The speaker it seems like has been through many heartbreaks, but he ends contented with his life still. This also might be the reason he goes through these self harming behavior because by the end he realizes he is contented, and it’s “sweet thought” as mentioned in the first line of the poem. This leaves the audience feeling less depressed from the dark messages of getting tears and pain when looking back, and that it is possible to look back on the past, and be contented with their life.


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