What is the point of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18? How does this idea from Shakespeare compare to earlier poetry that you have read?

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Michael Otis | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Perhaps the best known of Shakespeare's sonnets, the point of number 18 is a matter of the reader's opinion. Either it is a panegyric to the constancy of true love and its power to immortalize poetry, or it is an act of self-glorification by the poet. If the former, then the verses are a kind of stairs mounting to the deathless perfection of the beloved. Where in verse 1 the beloved is almost soberly compared to the loveliness of a single summer day, by verse 9 - after wistfully reviewing the transitoriness of earthly beauty in the intervening lines - the poet leaps into a whole new realm of metaphor: The beloved is not just like a summer day - she  is summer. She or he - most scholars maintain that sonnets 1 to 126 are addressed to a beautiful young man, despite the use of the feminine pronoun - becomes the standard by which the beautiful in all thought and art is judged. If the latter, then in the view of James Boyd-White in The Desire for Meaning in Law and Literature. Current Legal Problems. Volume 53, p. 142, sonnet 18 hardly qualifies as a love poem at all. In all its lines, there is no mention of the usual physical and moral attributes of the beloved in a conventional sonnet. Instead, it is a fanfaronade in which the poet boasts that his words will live long after the beloved has passed from this world.  

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