Not Marble nor the Gilded Monuments by William Shakespeare: Summary and Analysis

Not Marble not the Gilded Monuments by William Shakespeare is composed in the form of sonnet giving the importance of rhyme or poetry over marble or monuments. The speaker takes the side of powerful rhyme against marble or monuments. The statue of prince is transitory and destructive but the rhymes are eternal.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

According to the poet, poetry will shine more bright in the verses than any dust-covered stone, ravaged by time. In the poem the poet says: "Not marble, nor the gilded monuments Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme; But you shall shine more bright in these contents Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time."

The devastating war will overturn statues and conflicts destroy the mason’s handiwork. But both the sword of Mars (Wars) and effects of war (fire) can’t destroy the living record of poet’s memory. The poetry is eternalized thing that is not won by gold plated shrines and marble of the princess. The dust covered grave stone may be lost, but the poetic lines of the poets are forever. The poem has focused on the achievement of the poet’s works as greater than statues of prince and event of war. Something that is eternal can’t be compared to temporary human article. At this level, Shakespeare comes to conclude that nothing can defeat the powerful rhyme that contains the sound of the lover’s heart. Putting rhyme at the top of human sentiment and emotion, Shakespeare has pushed the monuments of princess to the label of inferiority.

This comparison is direct and indirect, visible and invisible, implicit and explicit, subtle and clear and so on. Here, marble can be symbolized with various ideas and earthly existences. It stands for material interest, artificial world, man-made beauty. On the other hand, rhyme represents the idea of love, spirituality, human sentiment, originality, and an eternity of love and passion. Rhyme is strict and it doesn't take any conscious effort for its creation. In comparison to marble, rhyme is powerful, memorable, brighter, future-oriented, shining, touchy- feely, beautiful, pleasant and permanent. Nothing of time and its unlucky events can destroy the charm and pleasure of any rhyme. Rhyme is the product of lover's attachment, commitment, and devotion to the romance and romantic vision of life. Such poetic contents are always far from sluttish time, enmity of death, unseen threats, war and weapon and fear of the judgment day. Artificial marbles and monuments may look enormous and attractive, but only for a few days. It can't exist permanently, avoiding the misfortunes of the time, war, death, shift of culture and the generation gap. Rhyme is always inclusive whereas marble is isolated and deprived of permanent recognition, respect, and long-term dignity.

This sonnet has the characteristics of dramatic setting as the poet refers ‘You’ in third and tenth lines. This ‘you’ refers to the poet or poetess or any artist who creates eternal monuments as a piece of art. Moreover the poem also talks about the past events of king and queen. This is narrative quality which comments about the war, kings and their statues with the description of the past events. The narration within the poetic expression presents the view about the position of war, the king and any literary person proved that this sonnet is narrative too. The visual images that the poet uses here can be felt are ‘gilded monuments’, ‘unswept stone besmear'd’ (dust-covered gravestone) and ‘shall shine more bright’ when we read the sonnet.

The poetic lines of this poem are strong enough to have the liveliness of the poet and poetess. So the poet sees the prince as nothing greater in front of the poetry. The destructiveness of the monument is nothing. So the poet speaks to favor the immortality of the poet / poetess in this poem.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "Not Marble nor the Gilded Monuments by William Shakespeare: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 24 Apr. 2018,