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Bianca Grino


Professor James Wilson


A Lasting Legacy

The poem, “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments” by William Shakespeare, is a

Shakespearean sonnet that has the specific structure with quatrains and one couplet. This poem

also follows the same basic scheme other Shakespearean poems have which is ​abab cdcd efef gg​.

For classic shakespearean poems there is usually no complete story. In this specific

Shakespearean sonnet we could see the message of the poem head to a specific direction with

one meaning entirely, but once it heads to the couplet the direction of this whole poem would

end up saying the opposite or turn completely around with the whole meaning. I believe for this

Shakespearean sonnet, William Shakespeare was trying to tell a person that their legacy will

continue to live on and outlast anything in this world, but not until that person sees his self-worth

will he finally become the legacy that will outlast “sluttish time.”

In this poem William Shakespeare sends a strong message about a person’s legacy. This

message is pretty evident in the whole poem because majority of the time he’s talking about a

person who will outlast monuments of famous princes. He uses phrases and words that really

emphasize the idea of a lasting legacy. In the poem there was a section that said, “Gainst death

and all-oblivious enmity/ Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room/ Even in the eyes

of all posterity” (Lines 9-11) In those lines alone he describes that this person’s legacy will

continue to last through inevitable events like death, and this says a lot because death is

something that will last forever and he’s saying that his legacy will last against death and enmity.

The word choices that he uses really puts that strong message. Since he also used the word like

posterity which basically means “all future generations of people.” he’s continually saying that

this person in the eyes of future generations of people will continue to live on. Basically meaning

that his legacy will last forever. Not only does the word choice really emphasize the message this

poem is trying to give, but also the imagery that William Shakespeare uses is pretty effective. In

the poem he says, “ But you shall shine more bright in these contents/ Than unswept stone,

besmeared with sluttish time./ When wasteful war shall statues overturn,/ And broils root out the

work of masonry” (3-6) In this section he describes that this person is going to stand out even

when broils start to destroy masonry. For that part I imagine how plants would grow through

things like stone in long periods of time. Just thinking about that section of the poem really

helped me imagine that this person’s legacy will live on in very long periods of time. Although

the message was mostly about how the legacy of this person will live on forever, this was only

the first portion of the poem. Everything in this poem can flow into one direction before it gets to

the couplet.

In this specific Shakespearean sonnet the structure contains quatrains and then one

couplet. The couplet in this specific poem actually changes the direction of the entire message

that William shakespeare was trying to say in the beginning. On the first quatrains of his poem

he really emphasizes the idea of someone’s legacy lasting through things like death and broils.

Although once the poem gets to the couplet the whole direction of the message goes the opposite

way. This way of writing is called a reversal, when the poem seems like it’s going in a complete

specific direction, but once it gets to the two lines it turns completely around. In this poem the

couplet says, “So, till the judgment that yourself arise,/ You live in this, and dwell in lovers’

eyes.” (13-14). These are the last two lines of the poem which is the couplet. There are different

interpretations that could be said about these last two lines, but I think that William Shakespeare

used this couplet and made a reversal. What he said on the first line I interpreted it as the writer

telling that person that until you finally see yourself worth will legacy finally live on through

things like death and doom. This whole poem went through one complete direction in the

quatrains describing and emphasizing how this person’s name or legacy will live through things

like death, but getting to the couplet completely changes it because it saying that this person

doesn’t even see himself or herself as something worth it in life. That’s what led me to thinking

that William Shakespeare really focused on making the couplet as a reversal.

In Shakespearean sonnets they are mostly works of literature that have undeveloped

narratives. The structure of these sonnets have a lot of twist and turns, but personally I think

that’s what gives it character which can emphasize the theme. A lot of Shakespearean sonnet

focus on themes like love, time, passion, or reason. According to the Salem Press Encyclopedia

of Literautre, “The organization of the sequence seems somewhat haphazard. Within it are

several groups of poems that clearly belong together, but they do not form an entirely satisfying

narrative. Shakespeare uses his half-untold story as a basis for poems upon many familiar

Renaissance themes: love, time, mutability, the conflict of body and soul, passion and reason”

(Rickards 1). In this poem specifically he was really focusing on the theme about time and

reason since he was talking about a person’s legacy and how he view himself is preventing him

from becoming a legend he knows he could be. The way it was written as a reversal at the

couplet really got this specific point across and it does seem confusing at first, but I think that’s

what helped emphasize his point this poem as a whole.

Overall this whole poem had a lot of twists and turns that were very confusing to interpret

at first. William Shakespeare focused a lot about the theme that involved time and reason. His

word choice really helped emphasize the points that he made in his whole poem, using words

like death, which is something that lasts forever and comparing it to someone’s legacy helped me

see the connection with his point. The imagery in his poem also helped get his point across

because the reader can really imagine the periods of time he is describing. The way he also made

the reversal with the couplet contributed to the idea of twist and turns being made in these kinds

of sonnets, but again I still think it further emphasizes the meaning behind the poem that people

should really see their self worth if they want to become a legacy that will last forever.

Work cited

Rickards, Bill. "Sonnets of Shakespeare by William Shakespeare." ​Salem Press

Encyclopedia of Literature​, 2013. EBSCO​host​,


Shakespeare, William. [ Not the marble, nor the gilded monuments.] ​The Norton

Introduction to Literature​, edited by Sarah Tobourg, W.W. Norton and Comapny Inc.2017,