Essay Sonnet 18

A sonnet is a fourteen line poem, formed by a single complete thought, sentiment, or an idea that originated in Europe. The sonnet consists of rhymes that are arranged according to a certain definite scheme, which is in a strict or Italian form, divided into a major group of eight lines, which is called the octave. The octave is followed by a minor group of six lines which is called the sestet. In common English form it is in three quatrains followed by a couplet.

Sonnet 18 is one of the most popular sonnets written by Shakespeare. He opens the sonnet with a question, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” he is saying should I compare your beauty to a beautiful summer’s day. Shakespeare goes on to say that her beauty is gentler, and more perfect than a summer day. Her beauty will be eternal in his poem and she will not lose possession of the beauty she possess.

Shakespeare wrote this poem for his love, to let her know how beautiful she was. He wanted to ensure that everyone could see her beauty in his sonnet. In the end he tells her that as long as there are people on earth, than her beauty will live on in his poems forever.

As per Wikipedia, “Sonnet 18” is also known as “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” “Sonnet 18” is one of the best sonnets written by Shakespeare. His poem will have eternal life through the written words of Shakespeare. Sonnet 18 is a typical English, and Shakespeare sonnet, it consists of three quatrains, followed by a couplet. The poem has characteristics of rhyming. They also state that the writer portrays that beauty is borrowed from nature, and must be paid back. There is a statement saying that the poem is figuratively talking about procreation of homosexuality, however they contradict themselves by also stating that the order of the sonnets introduces the possibility that the poem is about a woman instead of men like the first seventeen sonnets.

Spark notes also agrees with Wikipedia that this sonnet is commonly referred to “Shall I Compare thee to a Summer’s Day”. Sonnet 18 has simplicity and loveliness as it praises the loved one. I t is also one of the first sonnets that did not encourage young men to have children because they do not necessarily need children to preserve their beauty. The purpose of this poem is to defy time and last forever, and pass on the beauty of this person to future generations. However, Spark notes states that this poem is about a man and that his beauty will live forever, in this sonnet. The language in this poem is compatible with the sonnet because it does not have many repetitions of the same sounds made by a vowel, and nearly every sentence has its own separate subject, and verb.

My judgment of this sonnet, is that it is about a women that he loves and cares for. He speaks of her beauty, comparing it to a summer’s day, and how her beauty will last forever, unlike a summer’s day that is too short. Her beauty is gentler and more perfect than a summer day, when the sun is so bright and hot, that it can be blinding, or how the clouds pass by the sun. He explains in words how beautiful she is by comparing her to nature. He tells her that as long as there are people on earth to read his poem that her beauty will live on for an eternity.

Russell Lord writes that William Shakespeare creates a temperate of elements of comparison. Shakespeare first criticizes summer and how rough winds shake the “darling buds” in May. Russell states that “This objection might seem trivial until one remembers that the poet is invoking a sense of the harmony implicit in classical concepts of order and form which writers of the Renaissance emulated”. Lord means that the poet is trying to create a harmony of classical concepts in a specific order and form that was obsolete to people in the Renaissance times. The use of darling is a harmonious concept that makes the vision of a normal universe holding its creations and processes with love.

Lord continues to say that in lines 7 and 8 Shakespeare summarizes the objection of the summer day by stating that “everything that is fair will be “untrimmed”, either by chance or by a natural process”, which means that everything that summer makes will lose its beauty over time. The word “fair” means to be more than just beautiful on the outside but to beautiful on the inside as well, by using the words “lovely” and “darling”. Shakespeare invokes the concept of corruption, even though he is apparently discussing the disadvantages of a summer’s day when compared to a person, he is at the same time causing a transition to the next sonnet, number nineteen, which is the second element of his comparisons.

Robert Ray states that most critics and editors seem to think that the word “complexion” in line six refers only the physical appearance and it points to the face of the sun. The face of the sun is dimmed by passing clouds sometimes, and that the beauty of its face is destroyed, therefore Shakespeare is addressing the beauty of the young man. However, Ray feels that “complexion” stands for Shakespeare’s most common form of the four humors in his time, in a certain proportion. He feels that it was there way of speaking of a person’s temperate. It refers to both external and internal, as does “complexion”. The poem complements the young man’ moderate disposition. The clouds passing the sun are said to refer to how the young man’s temperate can become darker.


Sonnet 18
Lord, Russell. MasterplotsII: Poetry, Revised Edition, January 2002, p1-2. (Work Analysis) Author Name: Shakespeare, William

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18
Ray, Robert H.. Explicator, Fall94, Vol. 53 Issue 1, p10, 2p. (Literary Criticism)

Sonnet 18

SHall I compare thee to a Summers day?
Thou art more louely and more temperate:
Rough windes do ſhake the darling buds of Maie,
And Sommers leaſe hath all too ſhorte a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heauen ſhines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d,
And euery faire from faire ſome-time declines,
By chance, or natures changing courſe vntrimm’d:
But thy eternall Sommer ſhall not fade,
Nor looſe poſſeſſion of that faire thou ow’ſt,
Nor ſhall death brag thou wandr’ſt in his ſhade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’ſt,
So long as men can breathe or eyes can ſee,
So long liues this, and this giues life to thee,

The sonnet’s opening question supposes a negative answer, even if the reasons for not comparing are based on comparisons. A “Summers day” is a day of summer not metonymically the season of summer. The youth, compared to a summer’s day, is more “louely,” both more ‘beautiful’ and more ‘loving,’ and is more “temperate:” “temperate” of weather is neither too hot nor too cold and of persons is not given to extremes or equitable. A summer’s day is subject to variety and the wind’s harshness (“Rough windes do shake the darling buds of Maie”), where “darling” (dear + ling) means ‘small’ and ‘precious.’ “Maie” as a summer month is problematic: in the 16th and 17th centuries the calendar was 10/11 days in arrears and, although reformed under Pope Gregory in 1582, the recalculated dates were not fully introduced into England until 1752. The midsummer solstice in the 1590s still occurred not on June 21/22 but on June 11, the Feast of St. Barnabas, celebrated by Spenser in his Epithalamion as  “the longest day in all the yeare, / And shortest night.” Thereafter Spenser sees the sun “declining daily by degrees” as the house of Cancer progresses. 1 May, then, was a month straddling spring and summer. Moreover summer only has a lease on time, a limited contract with a short-term concluding date, “Sommers lease hath all too short a date.”

A summer day’s intemperate nature is demonstrated by the sun (“the eye of heauen”) which ‘sometimes’ or ‘at some time’ (“Sometime”) shines “too hot” and frequently, when masked by the clouds (“gold complexion dimm’d”), too coolly. 2 Although “complexion” suggests facial colouring, it was thought to result from an infusion of humours: a combination of qualities such as hot or cold in a certain proportion determined the nature of a plant or body. Because the hot and cold of the sun are not in proper proportion or degree, it is not temperate. It is also an example of the maxim that “euery faire from faire some-time declines,” as both it and its brightness decline daily to the west and seasonally after the summer solstice. The declining occurs either by accident (“By chance”) or by “natures changing course,” its seasonal change after the solstice as it loses its richness or embellishment; “vntrim’d” means ‘with its ornamentation removed’ (gold was customarily used as trim) or reduced to ruins; ‘untrimmed’ was used to translate the Latin acosmus, without order or without decoration (see Cooper’s Thesaurus, “Acosmus . . Vndecked: vntrimmed: a sloouen”). 3 A lamp untrimmed was one that was extinguished.

The poet’s argument now foresees a time when the youth will grow to time (“ when . . to time thou grow’st”). ‘To grow to’ was a legal term occuring in the law of leases which recalls Sonnet 13’s “beauty which you hold in lease,” and which should “Find no determination,” a ‘determination’ being where the lessee dies without heirs and possession of the estate reverts to the lessor. The reverting or forfeiting technically occurred under “the law of growing-to” and the estate was said to ‘grow to,’ to revert or escheat to the lessor. The “immortall lines” are either those of the poet in which the youth is engraved or engrafted (see Sonnet 15.14, “I ingraft you new”), which because immortal will forestall any ‘growing-to’ time. Or, as in Sonnet 16.9, they are the “lines of life,” the immortal lines that are the length of the “faire inheritance” or lineage that the youth will bequeath through his ever-continuing line, which will prevent any ‘growing-to’ or being ceded to time. (Compare Sidney, Ps. 39.15, “Lo, thou a spanns length mad’st my living line.”) Such poetic or generational immortality means that the youth’s non-seasonal (“eternall”) summer will not fade away. Nor will it be dispossessed (“loose possession”) of the beauty the youth owns (“ow’st”) in contrast to the lease on time which temporal summer has. Nor will death boast of or lay claim to the youth (“brag thou wandr’st in his shade,” with its echo of Ps. 23.4 “though I walke through the valley of the shadowe of death” (BB)); “shade” also evokes the shades or ghosts who wander the underworld, as well as hades or the abode of the dead. 4 Until the end of time (“So long as men can breath or eyes can see”), the poet claims, his off-spring (“this”) will prevail and will afford immortality to the young man (“this giues life to thee”).


18.1. Edmund Spenser, Amoretti and Epithalamion (London: William Ponsonby, 1595) 271-72; compare 265-66, “This day the sunne is in his chiefest hight, / With Barnaby the bright,” or Donne, LXXX Sermons 70, Sermon VII, “That man that is blinde, or that will winke, shall see no more sunne upon S. Barnabies day, then upon S. Lucies; nor more in the summer, then in the winter solstice.” Daniel also has May as a summer month in Delia (1592) 35.1-6.

18.2. Compare R2 3.2.190-91, “Men iudge by the complexion of the Skie / The state and inclination of the day.”

18.3. See also Cooper, Thesaurus “Acosmia . . A disordered heape of thinges.”

18.4. Shakespeare elsewhere uses “shade of death” for ‘shadow of death’ see 1H6 5.4.89 & 2H6 3.2.54.

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