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William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: Analysis Essay

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Updated: Dec 22nd, 2019

Introduction

This essay analyzes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. The sonnet is a captivating love story of a young man fascinated by the beauty of his mistress and affectionately comparing her to nature. The first stanza, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ opens the poem with an indication of a young man deeply in love (Shakespeare 1). He envisions her as a beautiful creature and even wonders whether one can compare her beauty to any summer season.

This love sonnet falls under the lyric genre, with the author expressing deep emotional feelings for his mistress throughout the poem. The first stanza gives an assumption to the reader that the poet is not sure of what is more beautiful, a beautiful summer day, or his mistress.

However, the air is cleared in the preceding stanzas that see the poet overcome by flamboyant feelings and admits that his lover is even lovelier than the summer itself (Shakespeare 2). The poem embeds an image of an undying and eternal kind of beauty as visualized by the poet.

Literary Analysis of the Sonnet 18

The poet adopts a thematic structure technique to express to his lover’s beauty. Line-by-line analysis of Sonnet 18 shows that the first stanza acts as an eye-opener of the poet’s attempt to compare his lover with summer. He goes on to state why his lover is better. Stanzas 1-6 give a solid reason as to why one can not compare his lover to summer. Though summer appears to be beautiful, it is not constant and can be very disappointing if solely relied upon. It also does not last as long as his lover’s beauty would.

The stanzas give detailed answers to his rhetorical question posed at the beginning of the poem. The poet’s praises and awe are well expressed in these stanzas by revealing all the beautiful qualities seized by his mistress. Her beauty is constant and can neither be shaken by strong winds, nor can it become unpredictable like the hot sun. It doesn’t waiver in the eyes of the beholder like the clouds swallow the summer hence losing its beauty.

Stanzas 7-14 indicates the everlasting beauty to which he says cannot be claimed by anything, not even a natural calamity such as death. In the conclusion of the Sonnet 18, W.Shakespeare admits that ‘Every fair from fair sometime decline,’ he makes his mistress’s beauty an exception by claiming that her youthful nature will never fade (Shakespeare 7). Interestingly, the author takes a different twist in the ending when he no longer compares the beauty to the summer, but rather to the immortality of his poems (Shakespeare 14).

Sonnet 18: Tone and Themes

The poem features an affectionate mood portrayed by the poet throughout the poem. The tone of the Sonnet 18 is that of the romantic intimacy of a young man intrigued by a woman’s beauty. The mood and the tone, therefore, play a significant role in describing the setting of the poem.

The poet is sitting in a field on a warm summer day (Shakespeare 1). Though the weather seems ideal, it is breezy with rough winds’ shaking the buds of May’ (Shakespeare 3). That is an indication that the poet is sitting under a tree enjoying the scenery on a hot afternoon. The poet enjoys the unpredictable weather till the clouds swallow the sun, and as he states, ‘By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’ d,’ nature always seems to take its course during sunset and sunrise (Shakespeare 8).

Symbolism and Imagery of the Sonnet 18

The poet uses metaphor and personification to bring life to the Sonnet 18. For example, he uses figurative speech to presume change, fate, and immortality. He speaks of how he will internally save his lover’s beauty from fading from the face of the earth (Shakespeare 12). ‘Summer’ as a literary device is used to mean the life of the mistress that should be safe from fate. Fate, in this case, is portrayed by the use of scorching sun and rough winds.

The imagery of the Sonnet 18 include personified death and rough winds. The poet has even gone further to label the buds as ‘darling’ (Shakespeare 3). Death serves as a supervisor of ‘its shade,’ which is a metaphor of ‘after life’ (Shakespeare 11). All these actions are related to human beings. ‘Eternal lines to lines though growest’ (Shakespeare 12) is a praise to the poet’s poems which he says will last forever so long as ‘men can breathe or eyes can see,’ a metaphor symbolizing ‘poet lovers’ will be there to read them (Shakespeare 13).

He views beauty as an art that cannot diminish despite all the hurdles in life. However, beauty does not apply to everything but only to images that appeal more to the eyes of the beholder than nature itself. That kind of beauty is immortal and surpasses all tribulations caused by nature itself.

Conclusion

This essay on the Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare analyzed the poem’s tone, imagery. meaning and main themes. In summary, the poet is fascinated by his mistress’s beauty, such that he cannot imagine that very beauty fading from his eyes. He argues that beauty is constant, and unlike a ‘summer day,’ is not affected by any changes or fate at all. He, however, seems to be praising his poem as characterized at the end of the poem, where he only compares the everlasting beauty to his text. The Sonnet eighteen’s conclusion indicates that beauty can only end only when the poem ceases to exist.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “Shakespeare Sonnets. 1564. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: Analysis Essay." December 22, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/shakespeares-sonnet-18/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: Analysis Essay'. 22 December.

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