What song, short story, or play would be best to match with Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day"), for a essay comparing and contrasting the two?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If this were my assignment, I would compare Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day") to Romeo and Juliet, also by Shakespeare. I will give you a few ideas to consider if you choose to compare the two pieces.

The first line could be speaking to Juliet's beauty:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

For me, Juliet is like that lovely day, though she is gentler.

As is the case in the poem, where...

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May...

...we can see this as a comparison in terms of how Juliet struggles against so much adversity (especially for so young a woman—probably thirteen) and in such a short span of time. The play takes place over the course of five days from start to finish, and in that time, a great deal happens:

Juliet falls in love...


O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father and refuse thy name!

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I'll no longer be a Capulet. (II.ii.35-38)

This should be a wonderful part of her life, but Capulet is forcing her to marry Paris (who she does not love—and she is already married to Romeo); he says that if she will not comply, her father will throw her out into the streets...


...What is this?

‘Proud’—and ‘I thank you’—and ‘I thank you not’—

And yet ‘not proud’? Mistress minion you,

Thank me no thankings, nor proud me no prouds,

But fettle your fine joints 'gainst Thursday next

To go with Paris to Saint Peter's Church,

Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.

Out, you green-sickness carrion! Out, you baggage!

You tallow-face! (III.v.152-160)

Juliet is then "abandoned" by her mother because Juliet has protested the marriage.


Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word.

Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee. (211-212)

Juliet is also devastated when her husband kills Tybalt. She also loses faith in Nurse, and then loses Romeo when he takes his life (thinking she is dead). It is easy to see that her life is like the rough winds of the spring battering Juliet—like a young rosebud trying to survive.

And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

This describes the speed with which Juliet (and Romeo) falls in love and dies, well before her time.

The speaker of the sonnet promises that his love's beauty will not fade as she ages and dies, but be immortalized in the poem—

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow'st.

This part of the sonnet notes that the speaker's sweetheart will remain young through the lines of the poem.

It is similar to Juliet dying so young and still so beautiful. She, too, will not fade, but live on in the memories others have of her, and be immortalized by the statue that will be erected to honor her by Romeo's father:


But I can give thee more;

For I will raise her statue in pure gold,

That whiles Verona by that name is known,

There shall no figure at such rate be set

As that of true and faithful Juliet. (V.iii.310-314)

In looking at the play in its entirety, we can infer that it speaks to both Romeo and Juliet: the light of their lives shines briefly, their loves burns swiftly, and neither will grow old. The difference is that they both die and are frozen in time, in memory, never to change. In the poem, the words keep the beauty of the speaker's lover alive.

Read the study guide:
Sonnet 18

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