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Sonnet 60
Sonnet 60
by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 60 Theme of Man and the Natural World

Most of Sonnet 60 suggests a deep connection between human life and the natural world, what with all its comparisons between human life in the natural world. Life is like waves, no wait, it's like a sun rising and getting eclipsed, no wait it's like vegetation and crops, and… you get the picture. But by the end of the poem, the speaker puts the emphasis on humans making things (like poetry) as a way of separating humans from the natural world, which makes them so subject to the ravages of time.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Overall, would you say that the poem compares humans to the natural world, or compares nature to the human world? Does the distinction make a difference?
  2. Quatrain 2 begins by comparing human life to something that happens everyday: the rising of the sun. But then it compares aging and death to something that happens pretty rarely: a solar eclipse. What is the effect of these two comparisons? 
  3. In quatrain 3, Shakespeare seems to compare the way time treats humans to the way humans treat nature. What's the deal?
  4. So who wins: humans or nature?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Shakespeare's poem arguably makes nature look like human life more than it makes human life look like nature. That's the speaker's attempt to make the world more meaningful than it actually is.

By portraying the downfall of the sun as "unnatural," or at least happening according to an extraordinary natural process, the speaker heightens our sense of outrage at the "injustice" of nature.

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