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Sonnet 18 Research Paper

By Skelleey Apr 28, 2013 1108 Words
Many feelings and underlying tones exist throughout one of William Shakespeare’s most infamous sonnets, Sonnet 18. The speaker opens the poem with a rhetorical question addressed to the beloved: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (line 1). The speaker begins by asking whether he should or will compare "thee" to a summer’s day; although the question is “rhetorical”, it is, however, indirectly answered throughout the remaining parts of the poem. (SparkNote). The stability of love and its power to immortalize the poetry and the subject of that poetry is the theme. The speaker in the sonnet feels a sense of passionate love, immortality, and even a sense of joyous celebration throughout the poem.

In the sonnet, the speaker feels a strong and overwhelming sense of love towards the individual he is referring to. “Thou art more lovely and more temperate:” (line 2). This line suggests that the individual is more lovely, more constant, and that his youthful beauty is more perfect than a summer’s day; “more temperate” refers to consistency, and how days in summer are unpredictable, more violent, and less restrained. (Shakespeare’s Sonnets).

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
(lines 3-6).

These lines suggest the negativity that occurs during a typical day in summer, and act as a support for the speaker’s reasons for why his lover is more temperate. “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” suggests how the winds in summer can become so violent that they shake and ruin the beautiful flowers that are beginning to bloom in May. “And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:” uses “legal terminology” and compares the length of summer to a lease or contract that holds part of the year, but the lease is too short and has an early termination date. (Jamieson). “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,” refers to the intense heat given off from the sun and how it is, occasionally, too hot and miserable. “... his gold complexion dimm’d;” means the sun’s “gold complexion” or its “golden face” is dimmed and hidden behind clouds. It is in these lines that the speaker addresses negative aspects that occur during summer and is slowly building the image of his love into that of a perfect being.

The second tone the speaker develops is a sense of immortality towards his love. He wants to preserve the immortality of his love and is completely positive, and somewhat egotistical, that through this poem, his lover will survive all of eternity. “And every fair from fair sometime declines,/ By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;” (line 7-8). These lines refer to how everything that is beautiful in this world will one day loose its beauty, either by chance, misfortune, or nature. “...every fair from fair sometime declines” suggests that everything beautiful will sometimes loose its beauty. “By chance or nature...” means the reason

everything beautiful loses its beauty is due to misfortune, chance or nature. “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,” (lines 9-11). These lines show the immense feelings the speaker has towards his lover; that his lover’s beauty and youth will never fade, and death cannot claim him for his own. (Mabillard). “...they eternal summer shall not fade” means the speaker’s lover’s youth will never once fade, even as his body ages. “Nor lose possession of that fair though owest;” means that his lover will never lose the beauty he possess. “Nor shall Death brag though wander’st in his shade,” suggest the fact even death cannot “brag” for killing one of earth’s most perfect being, as he will live on forever.

The speaker feels a sensation of joyous celebration towards the end of the poem. “When in eternal lines to time thou growest: / So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this and this gives life to thee.” (lines 12-14). These lines suggest that this lover will continue to live forever, so long others continue to read his poem, thus making him immortal. “When in eternal lines to time thou growest:” means, through the speaker’s verses, he will live forever. “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,” means his lover has a potential of becoming immortal, as long as there are humans alive and well on earth. “So long lives this and this gives life to thee,” is saying as long as those people alive on earth continue to read the poem, this lover will remain immortal for all of eternity. (Allen). Through these lines, the speaker develops the feeling of joy, because of his faith in immorality through the will of others, not through death and heaven. The speaker has a feeling that death is permanent, and that the only happy ending is through the will of others to continue reading his poem. He gives a sense that there is no afterlife, reunion, or redemption in some other plane. Death will be a final parting, permanent and absolute. In that embrace, it is not just that his lover means a great to deal to him; it is knowing that soon, they will be separated by eternity. “And yet, in infinite time and space, two motes of consciousness, against unfathomable odds, simply had the opportunity to enjoy a brief lucidity of life and touch each other in some small way before returning forever to the endless naught.” (Great Minds: Atheist Quotes).

The speaker wants others to see how significant his lover once was to him and let others have a glimpse of his lover’s “endless” beauty. In previous sonnets, the poet has been trying to convince the young man to settle down and have children, but in Sonnet 18, the speaker abandons this domesticity for the first time and accepts love’s all-consuming passion. (Jamieson).

Work Cited
Allen, Micheal R. "Immortal Lines: An Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18." Yahoo! Contributor Network. Yahoo! Voices, 1 Oct. 2009. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. "Great Minds Quotes." Great Minds: Atheist Quotes. Atheist Empire, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2013. Jamieson, Lee. "Sonnet 18 - Study Guide." Shakespeare. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. Mabillard, Amanda. "Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18." Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18. Shakespeare Online, 2000. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. "Shakespeare’s Sonnets." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2013. "Shakespeare's Sonnets." Shakespeare's Sonnets. Oxquarry Books Ltd, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.

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