Term of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Digital Commons@Georgia Southern License


Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Mary Villeponteaux

Committee Member 1

Candy BK Schille

Committee Member 2

Julia Griffin


Shakespeare, in his sonnets, employs alchemical references in the sonnets that ultimately fail, in order to show how fruitless it is to pursue immortality. The poet urges the fair friend, who himself is like the self-consuming ouroboros, to father a child that will continue his legacy and allow the fair friend to live on via the child. Language associated with the child is alchemical, referencing distillation, vials, flasks, and the renewing power of the philosopher’s stone. The dark lady, the opposite of the fair friend in every way, can be explained as fulfilling alchemy’s union of opposites needed for a philosopher’s stone to be created. However, when the fabled medicinal baths cannot cure the poet of the ill love he has contracted from the dark lady, it becomes clear that, just as there is no philosopher’s stone, there is no immortality.

Research Data and Supplementary Material