The best way to tackle Sonnet 18 is by breaking up the Quatrains and the Couplet. The first thing to look at is the opening stanza: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
The first thing to note is line one. It is a prompt. Looking at the sonnets in a bigger picture it is comprised into two sentences. Shakespeare asks us, and more reasonably, himself, if he shall compare his target to a summer’s day. Is it a writer’s exercise? Is he acting in sincerity – trying to figure out the sheer definition of the subject before him? Those questions are things hard to analyze without taking into some outside-of-the-text information and need more of a complete view of the poem to develop any context. But, as first lines go, it establishes quite the subject matter for the next 13 lines. The second line gives us a visualization of who Shakespeare is encapsulating, regardless of the actual identity of the person. The subject is more lovely and more temperate than a summer’s day. What do we know about a summer’s day? It is fleeting – here today and gone tomorrow – and it is often associated with images of true beauty: flowers, animals, weather and the emotions one may feel staring at their loved one in the middle of all of these other images. So, if the subject is more lovely and more temperate, the subject must have the extended qualities of these days. Summer in a person would be a person full of flush life, eager to attack the fall of tomorrow but willing to bask in the sunshine of the day. The last two lines of the quatrain are the beginning of Shakespeare’s observations on summer, which could be looked at as his views on the brevity of life. Regardless of who Shakespeare’s subject is, these two lines – and the entire second stanza, as we will see – tell us the qualities of summer. Line three tells us “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” which should be looked at as Shakespeare telling the subject that there will be times in the subject’s life when he or she will be shook, that he or she will experience some sort of upheaval that will disrupt the surface beauty of their “May,” which is the early months of their youth. The last line of this section continues on that theme. “And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date:” is a line acknowledging that brevity we spoke of earlier. In terms of the structure of the poem, line four plays a bigger purpose in the poem. The colon indicates a list is coming. That simple mark of punctuation lets the reader know that he is about to build on that previous point – that summer’s lease is much more complicated and needs more attention than one line. Really, the colon is the first signal that the poem mirrors a seasonal quality. The spring is the birth of the ideas in quatrain one, the summer is the analysis of what the season is and isn’t in the second stanza, the fall is the turn of Shakespeare’s words – the shift from talking about summer to once again talking about the subject, and lastly the couplet – the shortest lined portion of the poem and the repetition of Shakespeare’s point – resembles Shakespeare’s winter, the ending of the poem and the ending of life. The second quatrain of Sonnet 18, or Shakespeare’s list, as we defined it, talks about the qualities of summer: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
Line five, “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,” is an observation on the heat of the summer sun and, more importantly, the heated course life can sometimes take. Our end goal, our desire for eternity in some sort of ethereal paradise can be reflected here or Shakespeare can be talking about the earthly passions between two people and how they can disrupt a life. Line six furthers the qualities of...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document