How does Shakespeare use language for effect in Sonnet 18?

Shakespeare uses language for effect in Sonnet 18 in a number of ways. He employs metaphors, personification, as well as connotation to impact the mood of the poem and, thereby, the reader. Words with mild and fair connotations are used to describe the speaker's beloved, while words that convey a lack of predictability are used to describe a potential summer's day. These choices help to create a mood of tranquility and stability in regard to the beloved.

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One of the ways in which Shakespeare uses language for effect is by employing words with specific connotations. The language the speaker uses to describe the person he loves is overwhelmingly positive. For example, this beloved is "more lovely and more temperate" than a "summer's day." The words lovely and temperate both have mild and fair connotations, even conveying an elegance and understated beauty.

A summer's day, on the other hand, is described as much less beautiful than the speaker's beloved, and the connotations of the words used to describe it are a good deal less positive than those which describe the beloved him or herself. The wind can be "Rough" enough to "shake" and damage the delicate flowers, the sun can shine "too hot," and even the beauty of the best days will "fade." These words convey a sense of unpredictability and even promote the idea that summer days can be so extreme, while the beloved person is always, "eternal[ly]," temperate and "fair."

These distinct choices help to create the poem's mood of peacefulness and assurance in regard to the beloved, and—as mood refers to how the reader is supposed to feel, the sort of emotional atmosphere of the text—it is a significant effect produced by the varying connotations of the words used to describe the beloved and the summer day.

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In this poem, Shakespeare uses various language (literary) devices for effect. The sonnet turns, in part, on subverting the convention of praising a woman by saying she is as beautiful as a summer's day. A summer's day is beautiful, Shakespeare says, but it has many deficits that his beloved doesn't.

Shakespeare uses the language devices of imagery and personification to describe some of nature's deficits compared to summer. Imagery employs any of the five senses of sight, sound, hearing, taste, and smell. Personification means giving human attributes to nonhuman objects.

Shakespeare uses imagery when he conjures a picture of "rough winds" blowing the "darling buds of May." We can see and feel the violence of the wind as it disrupts and possibly hurts the fragile new spring buds that haven't yet flowered. Further, Shakespeare uses imagery when he notes the sun is sometimes too hot, and sometimes its "gold complexion dims"—in other words, sometimes it hides behind a cloud. All of this changeableness contrasts with the constancy of the beloved.

Shakespeare personifies the sun, referring to "his gold complexion" as if it is a male human being with a complexion or skin tone. This makes sense, since Shakespeare is comparing the sun to his beloved.

Shakespeare also uses the language device of metaphor, a comparison made without using the words "like" or "as," when he calls the sun an "eye," and he employs an extended metaphor in comparing his beloved to a summer day.

Finally the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of a line, such as "and," "nor" and "so long," a literary device called anaphora, lends a sense of rhythm to the poem, as do the end rhymes.

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There are many ways in which Shakespeare manipulates language in Sonnet 18. The most obvious of these may be his extensive use of metaphor; that is, how youth and mortality are conveyed through natural motifs. Whereas "darling buds of May" (Line 3) and a lover who is "temperate" (Line 2) come to symbolize youth, "rough winds" (Line 3) and "shade" (Line 11) are associated with time, mortality, and death. Although the lover is like a spring day, s/he will eventually be "[shaken]" (Line 3) by the harsh reality of time. That is why the speaker decides to immortalize him or her in verse; in this way, the lover's "eternal summer shall not fade" (Line 9).

Another interesting use of language includes economic or financial metaphors. Indeed, the speaker notes that "summer's lease hath all too short a date" (Line 4), and that the lover will not lose all "possession" (Line 10) of his or her beauty. In this way, youth is compared to a commodity which is not infinite; ultimately, it will run out, and we will die. It is only through poetry that we have any chance of permanence in love. 

Thus, Shakespeare combines more esoteric metaphors (that is, from nature) with more practical or daily ones (that is, from finance). This clever intermingling of spheres adds to the uniqueness and power of the poem. Shakespeare reaches beyond the abstract, and brings his poetry into "real world" situations. 

We can also note that Sonnet 18, like all Shakespearean sonnets, is written in iambic pentameter, and consists of 14 lines. Its rhyme scheme (abab cdcd efef gg) creates musicality. Also, we should note that Sonnet 18 makes use of a volta, or turn; in the final couplet, the speaker reinforces his belief that love and poetry can be eternal ("and this gives life to thee" [Line 14]). This is just one example of how Shakespeare's structural choices enhance his poetic language.

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