Shall I Compare Thee to Summers Day

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October 16, 2012
The Love Of Poetry Lives On
One will come to the realization that life must come to an end, but does the spirit of love live on forever? In the sonnet, “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day?” the speaker starts by asking whether he ought to compare whomever he’s speaking to with to a summer’s day. Instead of pursuing that subject any further, he jumps right in, calling the object of his description more “lovely” and more “temperate” than a summer’s day.(2) The meaning of temperate refers to an area with mild temperatures, but also, in Shakespeare’s time, would have referred to a person who has got it all together. The other important issue is the question of “thee”. Should readers assume that the object of the poem is his lover, and leave it at that? In fact, readers wonder who “thee” really is because of the speaker’s very limited representation. In any case, this hammers in something the reader suspected from those very first lines: however much it might look like the speaker’s praising his beloved, he is definitely more concerned with himself and how the spirit of love should live on forever in his poetry.

For example, there is not much to tell about the relationship between the speaker and his lover from the way he addresses “thee”. The speaker doesn’t seem to care much about what “thee” thinks. He does ask whether he should make this comparison, but he certainly doesn’t wait for an answer. The pronoun “I” is a stressed syllable in the first, but the pronoun “thou” is not stressed in the second line. This gives the reader an idea who’s going to be the real topic of this poem. Maybe this is why there are two lines that do not mention his lover at all. The speaker describes, “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date” (3, 4). Basically, strong summer winds threaten those new flower buds that pop up in May, and summer just doesn’t last very long. Using personification, the speaker...
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