Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments Summary by William Shakespeare

The poem is recited as a casing tale. The first half of Shakespeare’s sonnets dealt with his love for a young man and constantly keeping him alive through the sonnets that Shakespeare engraved. This poem is narrated from the first person point of view.  The poet speaks directly to the youth referred to in the sonnet. Throughout the poem, the poet expresses his love towards a young man. The sonnet is associated not only to the lastingness of stone but also to a persistent image of the departed. The poet asserts that his portrait of the young man, written in verse on fragile paper, will last longer than even the marble memorials of princes, which will inevitably become neglected, unswept stone with the unavoidable passage of time. In this sonnet, Shakespeare gives time a charisma. In this case, time is sluttish, suggesting that it is dirty and careless.

Summary of Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments 

Speaking straight to his beloved, the speaker begins with some confident words of reassurance. No other memorials, however beautiful or permanent, can outshine this sonnet, which will live longer and shine livelier. Other human creations have to deal with time and ferocious war, but this poem escapes both of these let-downs.

And for the reason that this poem is a poem of praise, conserving the memory of the beloved’s beauty, the beloved will also escapes destruction. In fact, he will live comfortably inside the sonnet and the minds of readers until the end of the world themselves.


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He clearly leaves behind, at least for the time being, his earlier depressing opinion of his verse as barren rime, for next he compares his verses’ immortality to unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time. This means that the young man will be remembered longer because of the poet’s having written about him than if descriptions of his beauty had been chiselled in stone.


The next four lines address the same theme of immortality, but then the poet claims that not only natural forces but human wars and battles cannot blot out his sonnets, which are a living record of the youth. Monuments and statues may be dishonoured during war. But it won’t happen to these rhymes.

Initially, the narrator was very much concerned about death’s effect on the youth’s beauty. He even questioned the nature of his sonnets’ status after both he and the young man died. But then, he boldly asserts that death is powerless in the face of his sonnets’ immortality. To the youth he says, “Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity, shall you pace forth.”

In fact, he declares that the young man’s name will be dredged up until the last survivor on earth passes away: “. . . your praise shall still find room, even in the eyes of all posterity that wear this world out to the ending doom.” Only then, when no one remains thriving, will the youth’s beauty fade, but through no fault of the youth or the poet.

This notion of the ending doom is the main point in the ultimate rhyme. The syntax of the line “So, till the judgment that yourself arise” might be rather confusing. Reiterated, the line says, “Until the Judgment Day when you arise.” The poet promises the youth that his beauty will remain immortal as long as one single person still lives to read these sonnets, which themselves will be immortal.

Suggested Reading: Not Marble Nor the Gilded Monuments Summary by William Shakespeare in Hindi

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