What are the strong feelings shown to us in Sonnet 18 and how are they presented to us by Shakespeare?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sonnet 18 forms part of the "Fair Youth" sequence of Shakespeare's sonnets and is similar in theme to several others within this sequence (sonnets 1–126). The speaker expresses his strong feelings about his beloved's beauty, but also about the importance of preserving that beauty. Lamenting the fact that "summer's lease hath all too short a date," the poet sees it as his duty to craft some level of immortality for his beloved's "summer" through the act of describing it in verse, as we can see in the concluding couplet:

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

The poet uses hyperbole to express the sheer loveliness of his subject, "more lovely . . . than a summer's day." The natural imagery of summer is continued in the poet's description of "harsh winds" which "shake the darling buds of May," an image which here represents the inevitable effects of time upon any beautiful thing in its youth. A metaphor, almost a kenning, is used to describe the sun, "the eye of heaven." Shakespeare then goes on to personify this sun, whose "gold complexion," drawn in parallel to the beloved's, "dims" when darkness falls.

However, the poet is certain in his convictions that he can preserve his beloved's beauty: "thy eternal summer shall not fade." His language is bold, and the verb "shall" reflects this conviction.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Sonnet 18, the speaker compares his beloved to a summer's day and then elaborates on how his beloved is superior to it. His first response to the comparison is to say of his beloved, "Thou art more lovely and more temperate." Temperate means moderate and less erratic. A summer's day (or summer itself), on the other hand can be too hot, overcast, etc.: 

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,

From here, the speaker explains that his beloved's loveliness "outshines" or outlasts the summer loveliness. Here, loveliness can mean beauty, personality, spirit, etc. Summer and the seasons are subject to the change of time. When he says, "thy eternal summer shall not fade," and that Death can not shade her loveliness, the speaker implies that his beloved's loveliness is eternal. Here, the speaker denotes a metaphysical aspect to her loveliness as if, even in her death, the spirit of her loveliness lives on. But in the final lines of the sonnet, it is clear that the sonnet itself is how her beauty will live on, beyond the changing seasons and beyond her own death. "So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." "This" is the sonnet. In expressing strong feelings for his beloved, the speaker praises her eternal loveliness, immortalized in the sonnet itself. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team