Sonnet 71 vs C. Rossetti's Rememeber Compare and Contrast

The folllowing sample essay on Sonnet 71 discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.

Shakespeare (15 64 – 1616) has made a large and varied use of the sonnet form. In many ways he has conformed to the traditional Pentrachian form and in other ways he has rewritten that tradition. In doing so he has formed the Shakespearean sonnet form that has become a tradition in its own right.

Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894) has used the Shakespearean sonnet and rewritten it to form a style that both conforms to that tradition and drastically differs form it.

This essay will consider the ways in which Shakespeare’s sonnet 71 and Rossetti’s sonnet ‘Remember’ are examples of the traditional convention and rewriting of the sonnet form and style.

Sonnet 116 vs Remember Analysis

The main theme of sonnet 71 (1609) is the death of the speaker. It has not happened yet, this we can tell the use of future tense visible in the first line, ‘when I am dead’ (l.

1). He is telling his lover that when he dies they should morn for him much longer after he is buried. This use of theme for poetry makes me question whether the speaker means he thinks he will die in the near future, or whether this is just a melancholic thought into the unavoidable? Is it Shakespeare’s thoughts that are being conveyed in this poem or is this just a fictional piece for general enjoyment? Wordsworth (1827) said in sonnets such as this one ‘Shakespeare unlocked his heart’ however, in the Elizabethan times sonnets were a type of popular culture thus this idea is unclear.

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This sonnet was published in a series of 154, in1609. The themes of the immediately surrounding sonnets, for example 68, 69, and 70 are based around beauty and youth. 71 is a complete contrast to these and starts a train of thought that does not change until sonnet 75. The fact that death is put so suddenly next to beauty and youth suggests that the next series of sonnets are a vain thought on the natural course of life.

The speaker in the sonnets and Shakespeare are not necessarily the same person. The speaker in this sonnet gives the impression of themselves as a poet by the way they refer to themselves in the sonnet. They speak of the ‘hand that writ it’ (l. 6) and ask the addressed to ‘look upon this verse’ (l. 9).

The fact that we are made aware of the speaker as a poet and we are made to ‘read this line’ (l. 5) gives the sonnet a paradoxical feel. This is because the message we are being told in the first line is ‘No longer mourn me when I am dead’ (l. 1), which when put in sequence with phrases such as ‘the hand that writ it’ (l. 6) makes us conscious of it being written by the same person who is going to be dying. This makes me think that while giving the message of selflessness for his lover’s emotions the speaker and poet is using this language to make us think about him in a subtly manipulative way.

When Shakespeare’s sonnets were published in 1609 there was great unease and almost shock about there contents. It is ambiguous who the person being addressed in the first half of the sonnet sequence is, rather what sex they are. Many including Oscar Wilde suggests this person is male, and Benjamin Jowett says there is a ‘sort of sympathy with Hellenism’. However Steven Booth says that the ‘sonnets provide no evidence on the matter.’1

The imagery used in this sonnet manipulates my emotions to feel sympathy and melancholic. Alliteration used like ‘surly, sullen bell’ (l. 2) gives a depressed morbid mood which is carried on in other such images like ‘vile world’ (l. 4) and ‘vilest worms’ (l. 4) gives the vivid scenes of buried corpses. Onomatopoeic images like ‘compounded with clay’ (l. 10) I think gives an almost claustrophobic feeling of decomposing. He reinforces this rotting theme by the line ‘love even with my love decay’ (l. 12). This gives love a biodegradable slant, like the body that will decompose in the ground. In that case this seems to suggest this love be no more than lust that will also fade with time. The fact that the speaker tells his lover not to mourn him longer ‘than you shall hear the surly sullen bell’ (l. 2) also seems to be pointing at the type of love in question.

The sonnet form used in the series and 71 is the English or Shakespearean sonnet. In this sonnet Shakespeare sticks rigidly to the three quatrains and rhyming couplet structure. This form is an adaptation of the Pentrachan ideas and theme of the poetry and the Sicilian ABAB rhyming scheme. There is also an iambic pentameter being used rigidly until the 13 line in which there are 6 rather that 5 stresses. This change gives change to the flow of the poem, building up for the end line climax.2

This poem gives me mixed feelings. I feel sympathy for the partner who the ‘wise world’ (l. 13) will ‘mock’ (l. 14) when the speaker is dead. Yet I feel by the graphic details given in words such as ‘vilest worms’ (l. 4) a certain amount of repulsion. I also feel with the writers ability to manipulate, a sort of anger that he is giving an explicit message such as ‘No longer mourn for me’ (l. 1), with implicit meanings by making the reader unconsciously think of the ‘hand that writ it’ (l. 6).

Christina Rossetti in her sonnet ‘Remember’ (1862) also writes about death. However unlike the idea Shakespeare tries to portray, the speaker wishes her lover to ‘Remember me’ and asks them tree times before deciding at the turning point (volta) that it would be ‘better by far you should forget and smile’ (l. 13) thus she is asking the same thing as Shakespeare by the end.

We get the sense of the speaker as a lover or a betrothed by the fact she talks of her lover not being able to ‘hold me by the hand’ (l. 3) and that the person she is addressing has been planning ‘our future’ (l. 6). This sense of the other party being dominant suggests that the addressed is male. The fact that the speaker is a woman is one of the ways Rossetti has rewritten the traditional idea of the sonnet.

The fact that she is not talking about beauty and youth and putting her lover in a divine context is an other way she has gone against the tradition of giving her lover divine and godly features. However as we have seen she is she is in a way conforming to Shakespeare’s ideology by showing her lover as someone who is not unattainable. She is not lamenting on any unrequited love factor, she has held her lover ‘by the hand’ (l. 3) and has a future planned with them. Shakespeare also is speaking of someone he loves. However in both of them, the factor of death is going to make the speaker in each sonnet the unattainable people, thus I think this theme is a refracted angle on the tradition which is different but also is linked with it.

Unlike the Shakespeare sonnet I get the idea of Rossetti’s belief in the afterlife when she talks of the ‘silent land’ (l. 2). It could be read as the ground which would be silent as earth is not a good conductor of sound, however Rossetti was an almost obsessedly religious Anglican so it would not make sense if she talked of death without some reference to life after death. This sense of the spiritual is emphasized by the contrasting physical imagery of hand holding in the second line. Like Shakespeare Rossetti uses dark and negative words like ‘darkness and corruption’ (l. 11) that I think give graphic ideas of bodily decomposing.

The sonnet form used in this poem is a interesting and unique one. The beginning octave reflects the traditional Pentrachan form however the sestet seems to be loosely based more on the French rhyming scheme CCDEDE. The rhyming scheme that Rossetti has created; CDDECE manipulates the flow of the sonnet as to make the first line in the sestet the volta. She also uses Shakespeare’s traditional Iambic pentameter and also gives the thirteenth line six stresses.3

This poem makes me feel sympathetic towards the speaker and her partner. This is because the general ideas of holding hands and talking about the future can be applied to anyone. This means it is very easy to identify with the problem of this couple.


These two sonnets are very good examples of a genre of poetry that has been actively modified since its invention and in doing so created new traditional styles. Rossetti and Shakespeare are two of the many who have taken the traditional and adapted it, as well as at the same time conforming and following the existing forms showing that the sonnet like all literary traditions is a fluid form to be manipulated and reworked as writers wish to express them.

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Sonnet 71 vs C. Rossetti's Rememeber Compare and Contrast. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Sonnet 71 vs C. Rossetti's Rememeber Compare and Contrast
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