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Sonnet 18 Characters

The primary two characters in this sonnet by William Shakespeare are the speaker, a poet, generally assumed to be Shakespeare himself, and the subject of the poem, the beloved figure.

It is generally assumed that the first 126 sonnets in Shakespeare's sonnet cycle are all addressed to one person, a mysterious Fair Youth. This person is sometimes referred to as Mr W.H., as this person was mentioned in the dedication to the sonnets when they were first published. However, while many have speculated, nobody knows who he was.

Certainly, however, we can deduce much about him from this poem. The speaker describes him as "more lovely" than summer, and having fewer downsides than summer, too, which can be too hot, or too dim, whereas the beloved is "temperate." The poet seeks to capture the beloved's beauty in this poem as a means of insuring him against the "shade" of Death. So long as the poem is still read, it will "give life" to the beloved and preserve the memory of his beauty— something which has turned out to be true, although we do not now know who the person was.

The speaker, probably Shakespeare himself, is wedded to this idea of immortalizing his beloved through his verse, and returns to it repeatedly in his sonnet cycle.

Another character mentioned in this poem is Death itself. The speaker personifies Death, suggesting Death might "brag" about having possession of the young man. However, the speaker promises this will never come to pass, as he has taken steps against it.