Why is Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" so famous?Why is Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" so famous?

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suman1983's profile pic

suman1983 | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’ is a love poem, which directly initiates a comparison between the beloved’s beauty and a summer’s day. By crucially pointing out the mutability found in nature [“every fair from fair sometime declines”] the sonnet projects the eternal significance of Shakespearean verse [“when in eternal lines to time thou grow’st]. The sonnet is unique not only in its use of imagery and treatment of themes, but it also crucially points out how and why Shakespearean verse is unique. In this sonnet all lovers discover their own voice. The lover Shakespeare in ‘Sonnet 18’ understands the significance of love as a life-giving force and in the couplet he, therefore, proclaims:“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Aside from the answer you have already received, the poem is beautiful.  It is a love poem which trips effortlessly off the tongue, and every single person on earth can relate to this subject.  Love is always a popular topic for poetry and music. The speaker attempts to convince the one he loves to what extent he loves her...

Perhaps the most romantic lines in the poem are:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Where the speaker basically says that her beauty will never fade, nor shall death claim her and their love since both will be eternally alive and youthful in the lines of this poem that many eyes will read even after they have physically left this world. 

podunc's profile pic

podunc | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Good question; I have a couple of possibilities. First of all, it is perfect "textbook" example of a Shakespearean sonnet--the sonnet form that uses three quatrains of iambic pentameter followed by a concluding couplet.

Secondly, the entended comparison of the poem (a young boy and a "summer's day") uses vivid imagery and unforgettable diction. Most people who are not poetry lovers will still recognize and remember the poem's first two lines:

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . . "

This particular sonnet has endured well for these reasons. It has become a part of our culture, from movie references in films like Dead Poets' Society to spawning a band called the "Darling Buds."

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