Shakespeare Sonnet 19 Essay Scholarships

Education Programs

National Shakespeare Competition

National Shakespeare Competition

Students, teachers and high schools are invited to join us for the 2018 Competition.   

Watch the videos from the 2017 National Competition, held on Monday, May 1.

About the Competition

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition provides teachers across the country with a performance-based program for the study of English Language Arts and Shakespeare. It is a school-based program serving Grades 9-12. Through the Competition, students develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature. The Competition has engaged more than 300,000 young people since its inception in 1983.

Through the English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, students:

  • develop essential skills: critical thinking, close reading and public speaking
  • increase self-confidence through reading, analysis and performance of Shakespeare
  • explore the beauty of Shakespeare's language and classic themes
  • bring the timeless works of Shakespeare to life and learn to express his words with understanding, feeling and clarity
  • meet local, state and national standards in English Language Arts and Drama.

Students read, analyze, perform and recite Shakespearean monologues and sonnets in three qualifying stages: at the school, community and national levels. Approximately 2,500 teachers and 20,000 students in nearly 60 ESU Branch communities participate each year.

The ESU National Shakespeare Competition has been recognized by the Globe Center (USA), the Children's Theatre Foundation of America and the American Academy of Achievement. Many distinguished judges have served on the Competition panels.

Branch competition dates are listed below. Schools should consult the links to find their branch's registration deadline and instructions.

In his Sonnet 19, Shakespeare presents the timeless theme of Time’s mutability. As the lover apostrophizes Time, one might expect him to address “old Time” as inconstant, for such an epithet implies time’s changeability. But inconstant also suggests capricious, and the lover finds time more grave than whimsical in its alterations.

With the epithet “devouring” he addresses a greedy, ravenous hunger, a Time that is wastefully destructive. Conceding to Time its wrongs, the lover at first appears to encourage Time to satisfy its insatiable appetite. Indeed, he familiarly addresses Time as “thou” as he commands it harshly to “blunt, n “make the earth devour, n “pluck,” and “burn.” Not only are the verbs “blunt,n npluck,” and “burn” linked by assonance, but also by their plosive initial consonants, so that the Lover’s orders sound off Time’s destructiveness as well. Each line offers a different image of Time at work: on the lion, the earth, the tiger, the phoenix-bird. Time is indiscriminate in its devouring. In the second quatrain, the lover grants to Time its own will: “And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,” acknowledging priorly that in its fleet passage Time does “Make glad and sorry seasons. n For the first time one sees Time in other than a destructive capacity–in its cyclical change of seasons, some Time does “make glad” with blooming sweets.

So the lover changes his epithet from devouring to swift-footed, certainly more neutral in tone. For now the lover makes his most assertive command: “But I forbid thee one most heinous crime. n The final quatrain finds the lover ordering Time to stay its antic “antique pen” from aging or marring his love. It is a heinous crime to carve and draw lines on youth and beauty. ere the Lover no Longer speaks with forceful plosives; his speech, for all the appearance of imperative command, sounds more Like a plea or earnest request. The poet-lover changes his pleaful tone to one of scorn as he finally orders “Yet do thy worst, old Time. Time is no longer devouring or swift-footed, merely old. And age as Time will, the lover realizes “My love shall in my verse ever live young.” Shakespeare eludes swift-footed devouring Time, giving immortality to youth, beauty, and one man’s love through his surviving verse


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