What does Shakespeare use to demonstrate that summer weather is unpredictable in Sonnet XVIII?

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Sonnet XVIII is one of the most well-known of the poems of William Shakespeare. In it, the famous bard compares the changing aspects of the summer with the everlasting beauty of the unnamed person to whom the sonnet is addressed. Shakespeare promises that this person will live on within the words of the poem, as long as there are people to read it. Therefore, the person remains forever beautiful, while the summer's beauty is only temporary.

Within Sonnet XVIII, Shakespeare demonstrates that summer is unpredictable in several ways. For instance, he writes that "summer's lease hath all too short a date." This means that summer comes just for a short time and then is gone again too soon. "Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines" refers to the sun, which sometimes feels too hot for comfort. "Often is his gold complexion dimm'd" is another reference to the sun. The complexion or face of the sun is unpredictably dimmed by clouds. "Every fair from fair sometimes declines" means that although sometimes various aspects of summer are lovely for a time, eventually the beauty fades because of changing weather or seasons.

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In Sonnet XVIII Shakespeare uses the concept of sublunary, or earthly, corruption to demonstrate that summer weather is unpredictable.

In his Petrarchan sonnet, Shakespeare invokes the sense of harmony of the classical form and order demanded by this particular sonnet form. But, to expect such order in the universe is not possible because of sublunary corruption: Summer is but one season and then changes; sometimes it is too hot, or "rough winds" may disturb the beauty of nature. At any rate, this lovely season can end in destruction: "And every fair from fair sometime declines."

Since the elements of nature are transitory, verse is then appropriated as the form for the perpetuation of the speaker's love. Indeed, beauty will last forever in verse. In this way, the beloved's "eternal summer" will not wither or fade, and the beloved will remain as fair as she is at the time of the composition of this sonnet. The final couplet summarizes this eternalness:

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

 

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