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What is an example of personification in Sonnet 18?

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sharms | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 4, 2008 at 4:53 AM via web

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What is an example of personification in Sonnet 18?

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted May 4, 2008 at 8:18 AM (Answer #1)

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The sonnet goes like this:

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:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The idea of the sun having a "gold complexion" (line 6) is personification, as is the idea that death can brag about the reader wandering in his shade (line 11).  In addition, the final line, referring to the sonnet having life is also personification.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 4, 2008 at 10:35 AM (Answer #2)

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Another example of personification is "eye of heaven."  Just wanted to add that one. :-)

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 23, 2015 at 8:07 PM (Answer #3)

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Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to things that are non-human. In this sonnet, we see the personification of natural forces.

The use of the adjective 'darling' to describe the plants in May is an example of personification. This kind of adjective is more usually applied to people. Even the image of the 'rough winds' that shake the plants could be regarded as personification to a degree, as it comes across rather as though the winds are deliberately shaking the plants, as a person might.

An obvious example of personification is that of the sun, referred to obliquely as 'the eye of heaven' and said to have a 'gold complexion'. Also, personification here is evident with the use of the word 'his', instead of 'its'.

Death, an abstract noun, is also personified here with the use of 'his', and the image of death 'bragging' about claiming the life of the beloved.

The sonnet itself 'lives', according to the poet, as though it were a person.

Overall, we may observe that the season of summer is also being personified in a way, as it is invoked as a point of comparison with the poet's beloved.

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