In Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day," what does "this" refer to?

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Shakespeare wrote a number of sonnets in which he affirmed that the person being addressed would be immortalized in the fourteen lines of poetry because his poetry was immortal. Sonnet 18 is an example. The closing couplet reads:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

The word "this" in both cases refers to the sonnet itself. Shakespeare is saying that this sonnet will live as long as humanity continues to exist. This may seem like rather an arrogant statement, but the sonnet has "lived" for some four centuries and seems likely to live...

(The entire section contains 311 words.)

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