Critical Analysis of Sonnet 18 - PDFCOFFEE.COM (2023)

Critical Analysis of Sonnet 18: This sonnet certainly speaks of the poet’s beloved, but more than that it speaks of his own poetry. He praises the beauty of his beloved but does so in the service of his poetic craft. He knows that the individual human body cannot survive the passage of time and that it will eventually fade away. As a result of the process of aging, this body will die and decay, for man is mortal. It is said that to be born is to die. Thus no man can literally escape death. However, the death of a single man does not spell the death of the species. Man as a species will live on. And because of that, man’s art will also live on. The poet knows that there is only one way to become immortal, and that is through the creation of timeless art. He is confident that his poetry will be read and held in high esteem for many generations to come. That is why the people of whom he speaks in his poetry will also live on. In this way, future readers of his poetry will get to know that there was once a beautiful woman who was the poet’s muse and inspiration. Hence her beauty may not literally survive, but the praise of that beauty in the poet’s words can never fade away entirely.

Annotation of Sonnet 18: Please note: N= noun, V=verb, Adj=Adjective, Adv=Adverb, P=Preposition, Pr=Pronoun Thee (Pr): An older form of the word “you” Thou (Pr): An older form of the word “you” Art (V): An older form of the word “are” Temperate (Adj): Relating to or denoting a region or climate characterized by mild temperatures Rough (Adj): (Of weather or the sea) wild and Stormy Buds (N): Plural form of the word “bud”, that is, a compact knob-like growth on a plant which develops into a leaf, flower, or shoots

Lease (N): A contract by which one party conveys land, property, services, etc. to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment Hath (V): An older form of the word “has” Complexion (N): The natural color, texture, and appearance of a person’s skin, especially of the face Dimmed (V): Past participle form of the word “dim”, that is, make or become less bright or distinct Fair (Adj): Beautiful Declines (V): Third person present tense of the word “decline”, that is, (typically of something regarded as good) to become smaller, fewer, or less; decrease Course (N): The way in which something progresses or develops Untrimmed (Adj): Not having been trimmed or cut away Thy (Pr): An older form of the word “your” Eternal (Adj): Lasting or existing forever; without end Fade (V): Gradually grow faint and disappear Possession (N): The state of having, owning, or controlling something Ow’st (V): Short form of the word “owest” which is, in turn, an older form of the word “owe” Brag (V): Say something in a boastful manner Wand’rest (V): Short form of the word “wanderest” which is, in turn, an older form of the word “wander” Grow’st (V): Short form of the word “growest” which is, in turn, an older form of the word “grow”

Poetic Devices in Sonnet 18: Rhyme scheme:

Sonnets typically occur in two types of rhyme schemes – in the pattern ABBA ABBA CDE CDE, known as the Petrarchan sonnet, or in the pattern ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, known as the Shakespearian sonnet. This sonnet is a typical Shakespearean one, as it follows the rhyme scheme mentioned above in its entirety without the slightest of deviation. Rhetorical devices: Apostrophe: This rhetorical device is used when a poet addresses his or her poem to an absent audience. In this poem, the poet uses the device of an apostrophe when he addresses all his words to his beloved, whom we never see responding at any point in the poem. ');(playerPro=window.playerPro||[]).push(i);})(); Simile: This rhetorical device is used when an overt comparison is made between two different things. In this poem, the poet uses the device of simile in line 1 itself when he makes a comparison between his beloved and a summer’s day and then says it is not an appropriate comparison to make. Metaphor: This rhetorical device is used when a covert comparison is made between two different things or ideas. In this poem, the poet uses the device of metaphor in line 4 when he compares summer with a landlord who leases out his property only for a short time. Again in line 5, he compares the sun with the eye of heaven. In line 6, he compares the color of the sun with that of gold. Finally, in line 9, he compares the youth and beauty of his beloved with the summer season. Personification: This rhetorical device is used to bestow human qualities on something that is not human. In this poem, the poet uses the device of personification with respect to death in line 11, when he endows death with the human ability to brag.

Central Idea of Sonnet 18:

Nature is beautiful, but it is subject to change. On the other hand, the beauty of the poet’s beloved is unchanging. However, that beauty is liable to disappear with the death of his beloved. That is why the poet composes a poem whose subject is that very beauty in order to immortalize it. He is sure that future generations will read this poem and appreciate the beauty of which it speaks.

Themes of Sonnet 18: Mutability of nature: The poet begins this sonnet by asking whether he should compare his beloved to a summer’s day, but does not wait for an answer. This is because he knows that his beloved’s beauty is unchanging and timeless, whereas nature can be both beautiful and terrifying, and that the change from one state to the other can occur at any point in time. One day the sun’s light can illuminate and invigorate the earth, while the next this light may fade away completely filling the sky with clouds and the possibility of precipitation. Both of these faces of nature are described aptly by the poet here. Aging as a natural process: While the poet clearly expresses his desire to immortalize the beauty of his beloved, he does not deny that she will age with time. The poet knows that the course of nature cannot be stopped, and that Time is a natural progression. Hence, the ravages that time commits on the human race are also inescapable. Therefore, he cannot stop his beloved from growing old or her physical body from decaying. However, one death or two does not mean that the entire human species will come to an end. Man will live on, and so will art. That is precisely why the poet chooses to immortalize his beloved through the medium of poetry. Self-reflexivity: Self-reflexivity is the process by which an artist refers to his own art. That is exactly what the poet does in the last line of this sonnet by referring to his poem as “this”. He is intensely aware of the value that his own poetry can accord to something. He knows that his poetry can, in fact, make his beloved immortal. This kind of self-awareness is a sign of reflexivity, and it is very rare in works dating back prior to the 21st century. Hence this shows how modern Shakespeare was as a writer, and how he has influenced all later generations of writers as well.

The Tone of Sonnet 18: The tone of this poem vacillates between pessimism and optimism. On the one hand, the poet talks about how nothing is permanent – how the weather changes, how the earth goes through various seasons one after the other, and how the human body must age and die. On the other hand, the poet also asserts the immortality of art. Art is, for Shakespeare, eternal. He knows that long after he is gone, his poetry will continue to be read and appreciated.

Conclusion: Sonnet 18 is one of the best-known sonnets of Shakespeare. This is because it upholds many of the themes that are found in his other sonnets as well – the changing course of nature, the brevity of human life, and the permanence of great art. These themes are even echoed in the best known of his plays. It is these themes that make Shakespeare the great writer that he is, for these themes are relatable to all his readers.

The main purpose of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 is embodied in the end couplet: So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this and this gives life to thee. The sonneteer's purpose is to make his love's beauty and, by implication, his love for her, eternal. In doing so, he takes a rather circuitous pathway by beginning with a comparison that does not describe her. In the first two quatrains, he is essentially saying, "No, I cannot compare you to a summer's day, and here's why." The last two lines of the first quatrain, Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date: along with the whole second quatrain (four lines of poetry with alternating rhyme) explain why she can not be compared to a summer's day. For instance, "rough winds" do not shake her beauty and her

beauty is not sometimes dimmed as even the mighty sun's glory is sometimes dimmed: [that] too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold ... dimm'd; The third quatrain, beginning with the contradictory conjunction "but," begins the explanation that leads up to the main purpose expressed in the ending couplet (two rhyming lines of poetry). In this final quatrain, the sonneteer says "But ..." your beauty shall be an "eternal summer" and shall not fade nor be dimmed so that even Death shall not rob your beauty. Then comes the implied "because" of the couplet that explains that as long as Sonnet 18 can be read, then she will have beauty and she will have life eternal. Title: I believe that William Shakespeare didn’t give this a title because he wants the readers to evoke their own emotion about this Sonnet. Rather than giving it a gloomy or happy title he let the reader decide how to feel at the end. Paraphrase: In the beginning seven lines, Shakespeare talks about the beauty of summer and how it never lasts and can change “And every fair from fair sometimes declines”. Another part of the sonnet also shows this “And every fair from fair sometime declines”. In the last couple lines however he talks about how the person he is writing about beauty will never fade and because of his poem they will live eternally. “Nor lose possession of thou wander’st in his shade…. When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st”. Connotation: One thing William Shakespeare does at the end of every line is he puts some type of divide. Whether it is a comma, semicolon, or a period. I think he does this to make it all flow and combine well together giving off an emotion. It’s sort of like he is pausing for a dramatic effect. In the end he uses some assonance to sort of show how they will live forever be remembered by using that repeated “So long”. He also has a rhyme scheme and some slant rhyme maybe to add more of a rhythm . Attitude: This sonnet is very dramatic, and heartfelt in a sense. He is saying that there is nothing to compare this person to. Summer will fade away and no longer be beautiful, but this person will forever be beautiful. And he portrays that in some of the words he chooses. Shift: Around lines eight and nine you get the shift because he goes from talking about the temporary beauty of summer to the everlasting beauty of the person. “But they eternal summer shall not fade. Nor lose possession of fair thou ow’st”. And the mood shifts from basically dissing summer to talking about beauty.

Title: I still believe that Shakespeare wanted this sonnet to provoke an emotion. Either that or he thought this sonnet didn’t need a title he wanted it to speak for itself.

Theme: Beauty will eventually fade except in the eyes of someone who loves you. “Sonnet 18” written by William Shakespeare, commonly known as “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”, is one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets. Like most of Shakespeare’s sonnets, “Sonnet 18” is written in Shakespearean sonnet form, which is twelve lines of iambic pentameter and ending with a rhyming couplet. Beauty is a running theme in “Sonnet 18”, showing that Shakespeare places a lot on the beauty in a lover. Throughout the sonnet, Shakespeare is comparing his lover to a summer’s day, while coming to the conclusion that his lover is much better than summer. Shakespeare is the speaker of “Sonnet 18”, and he is addressing his lover. Shakespeare asks his lover “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (line one) and precedes to compare his lover to summer. Shakespeare writes “Thou art more lovely and more temperate: /Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” (lines two – three), meaning that his lover is lovelier and calmer than the rough winds of May that shake the baby flower buds. The second quatrain describes what makes summer unappealing compared to the lover. “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm’d:” (lines five – six) says how sometimes the sun is too hot but the sunshine is often dimmed, and the uncertainty of what the sun will bring is unappealing unlike the certainty of the lover’s unfading beauty. The third quatrain, “But thy eternal summer shall not fade / Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; / Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade, / When in eternal lines to time thou growest” (lines nine – twelve), explain how the lover’s beauty will never fade and that death cannot take their beauty away because the lover owns their beauty. In the ending couplet, “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (lines thirteen – fourteen), Shakespeare is telling his lover that their beauty will live on through the poem as long as people are living. By the constant reference to eternal beauty, a reader can infer that Shakespeare places beauty highly when considering a lover and that perhaps beauty is all Shakespeare considers when looking for a lover. “Sonnet 18” has the traditional form for most of Shakespeare’s sonnets; twelve lines of iambic pentameter followed by a rhyming couplet. The twelve lines of iambic pentameter are delivered in the form of three quatrains. Each quatrain’s idea flows smoothly to each other; from introducing the rhetorical question of comparing this lover

to a summer’s day to listing all the reasons summer does not compare to the lover to finally stating how the lover’s eternal beauty shall not fade and will live on forever through the sonnet. The three quatrains follow the abab cdcd efef rhyme scheme and the ending couplet has a gg rhyme scheme. “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (lines thirteen – fourteen) has the common ending couplet gg rhyme scheme for a Shakespearean sonnet. The most prominent figure of speech used in “Sonnet 18” is the extended metaphor comparing Shakespeare’s lover to a summer’s day throughout the whole sonnet. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate:” (lines one – two) is the immediate metaphor; saying that the lover is calmer than a summer’s day. Comparing the lover’s beauty to an eternal summer, “But thy eternal summer shall not fade” (line nine) is a metaphor inside the sonnet-long extended metaphor. Along with the extended metaphor running throughout the whole sonnet, Shakespeare also uses imagery. “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” (line three) brings the image of rough, heavy winds destroying small, delicate, helpless newly sprouted flowers of springtime. “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,” (line five) invokes the image of a scorching hot summer day. “And often is his gold complexion dimm’d,” (line six) can either bring a summer sun hidden by the dreary rain clouds or the daily disappearance of the sun caused by the rising moon to the reader’s mind depending on how they may interpret that line. Besides metaphors and imagery, Shakespeare uses symbolism to describe how his lover compares to the seasons other than summer. Throughout the sonnet there is symbolism to the four seasons, starting with spring in line three, “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’, which represents being born or rebirth. Summer, line four “And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:” can represent youth and how being youthfully beautiful does not last as long as some people would like. Lines seven – eight, “And every fair from fair sometime declines, / By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;” represent autumn and the uncontrollable transition from youth to adulthood. “Nor shall Death brag thou wandr’st in his shade” (line eleven) symbolizes death and the end of things. Shakespeare’s lover’s beauty is represented here, except their beauty defies the ending of summer, the change of autumn, and the death of winter; the lover is eternally youthful and beautiful. William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” is a sonnet written to preserve his lover’s beauty for all eternity as stated in the final two lines, “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (lines thirteen – fourteen). A reader can come to the conclusion that Shakespeare values beauty above other qualities when looking for a lover because beauty is the only characteristic mentioned in the sonnet.

More specifically, Shakespeare writes about a lover with eternal beauty, showing that beauty is truly all he is looking for in a lover. While “Sonnet 18” is one of Shakespeare’s best known sonnets, and has some beautifully written lines, it tells the story of a superficial affair based solely on the never fading beauty of Shakespeare’s lover.


What is the central message of Sonnet 18? ›

Shakespeare uses Sonnet 18 to praise his beloved's beauty and describe all the ways in which their beauty is preferable to a summer day. The stability of love and its power to immortalize someone is the overarching theme of this poem.

What is the irony in Sonnet 18? ›

There is an irony being expressed in this sonnet: it is not the actual young man who will be eternalized, but the description of him contained in the poem, and the poem contains scant or no description of the young man, but instead contains vivid and lasting descriptions of a summer day, which the young man is supposed ...

Is Sonnet 18 about a man or woman? ›

Scholars know that Sonnet 18 is about a man rather than a woman because of where it appears in the sonnets: it is the eighteenth, and the first 126 are about the man, called the Fair Youth. In some of these poems, the fact that a man is the subject is much more explicit than in Sonnet 18.

What are the strong feelings used in Sonnet 18? ›

This sonnet touches upon numerous issues inherent to human feelings: the necessity to compare a beloved person with some natural events or things, the desire to prove that love is a powerful feeling that can change a person, and the abilities to demonstrate various approaches and writing techniques to disclose the ...

What is the conclusion of Sonnet 18? ›

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).

What is the central message of the poem? ›

The central theme of a poem represents its controlling idea. This idea is crafted and developed throughout the poem and can be identified by assessing the poem's rhythm, setting, tone, mood, diction and, occasionally, title.

What figure of speech is used in Sonnet 18? ›

"But thy eternal summer shall not fade", this is a metaphor because summer is interpreted like beauty. "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May" is a personification where the act of shaking is done by "Rough winds", so a human action is referred to a without life thing.

What is the tone of Sonnet 18? ›

Sonnet 18 is one of the most well-known of Shakespeare's sonnets. The opening line is often cited as an example of love poetry. The message is that the beauty of the beloved will remain eternal as long as the love remains in the poet's heart. The tone is intensely admiring and also hopeful.

Who is the main character in Sonnet 18? ›

There are three main characters in the sonnets, which are usually named Fair Youth, the Rival Poet, and the Dark Lady. The main content is that the narrator admires the Fair Youth's beauty, which refers to a young man. But then the narrator has an affair with the Dark Lady.

What is the message of the sonnet? ›

Answers 1. Shakespeare's main message is that which will fade in life (beauty) can be immortalized in verse.... his poetry will live forever.

What is the central lesson of the story? ›

Central Message: The big idea of a story. Lesson:What an author wants the reader to learn from a story.

What is the mood of the poem? ›

In poetry, the mood describes how word choice, subject matter, and the author's tone convey an overall feeling that characterizes the emotional landscape of a poem for readers.

How do you summarize a poem? ›

How to Summarize a Poem
  1. Read through the poem several times, including reading it out loud. ...
  2. Identify the meter and type of poem. ...
  3. Look up any words that you don't understand, including any words or phrases that are presented in another language. ...
  4. Examine the poem for any potential symbolism.

How is death personified in Sonnet 18? ›

Explanation: In Sonnet NO. 18 , Death is personified much like the Grim Reaper who comes for the beloved, desiring to claim her in "his shade"; this shade is an allusion to the valley of the shadow of death expressed in Psalm.

What is the central theme of the sonnets? ›

Shakespearean sonnet themes explore the ideas of love, aging, beauty, time, lust, practical obligations, and feelings of incompetence. These themes emerge from Shakespeare's descriptions of the relationships between his characters.

What is the central idea of these lines Sonnet 18 quizlet? ›

Shakespeare is writing about his love and how that love will be eternal through this poem for all to know. He is telling of how this young male appears to him and how the beauty he holds cannot be lost just by death.

What figurative language is in Sonnet 18? ›

The speaker uses a metaphor and hyperbole by comparing the beloved's beauty to summer and claiming it will never fade. "Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;" shakespeare says in sonnet 18.

What is the best paraphrase of this line Sonnet 18? ›

He is saying that the girl is more lovely and more perfect than a summer's day. He also says that summer is not a right comparison because summer winds shake the beautiful winds of summer and summer ends. He means that her beauty will not end.

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