Who is the audience in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

The audience in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 is the speaker’s beloved. The words “thee” and “thou” in the opening two lines suggest this. This fair person is assumed to be the same mysterious “fair youth” who is the intended audience of 126 of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The speaker also prompts the reader to reflect on the power of poetry at the end, suggesting that this sonnet is also directed at people who love and read poetry.

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The audience in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” is assumed to be the same audience as all of Shakespeare’s first 126 sonnets—a “fair youth,” a mysterious character who is beloved by the speaker.

The speaker’s word choice from the very opening lines suggest that this sonnet is directed at the...

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The audience in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” is assumed to be the same audience as all of Shakespeare’s first 126 sonnets—a “fair youth,” a mysterious character who is beloved by the speaker.

The speaker’s word choice from the very opening lines suggest that this sonnet is directed at the fair youth. Consider how the sonnet opens with the speaker asking “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The word “thee” here suggests that the intended audience is the person that the speaker thinks is beautiful and fair. In the following line, “Thou art more lovely and more temperate,” the fact that the poem is directed at the speaker’s lover is confirmed by the word “Thou" and the description of the person as extremely lovely. There has been debate about whether this sonnet was directed at a man or a woman, but what is clear from the language is that it is directed at one person.

It is also interesting to note that in the end the speaker veers from discussing the lover’s beauty directly and reflects a bit on the power of poetry. Consider the meaning of the line “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Here, “this” refers to the sonnet itself. The speaker is saying that as long as this poem exists, the lover’s beauty will be preserved. This prompts the reader to reflect on the enduring power of poetry and suggests that the poem is also intended for readers and lovers of poetry.

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