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Critical Analysis and Interpretation of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Summary:

Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" compares the beloved to a summer's day, highlighting their superior beauty and eternal qualities. The poet argues that unlike summer, which is fleeting and sometimes imperfect, the beloved's beauty is everlasting and will live on through the poem. This sonnet immortalizes the beloved, suggesting that art can defy time and decay.

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What is the problem presented in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

The problem in sonnet 18 is that everything in nature dies. The poet wants to find some great metaphor to compare his love to, but none of the traditional metaphors work. Why? Because everything in nature eventually decomposes. That's a problem because he wants some aspect of her to be immortal.

So the quick and dirty, easy way to figure out a sonnet is to separate the poem into an octave(8) and a sestet(6). Look for a "but" or a "yet" or some other turning word at the beginning of the sestet. Also look for a rhyming couplet at the end. Shakespeare sometimes messes with form, so he'll often start an apparent turn at the sestet and make his final point at the rhyming couplet. That's what he does here: first 8 lines--he'd compare her to the best of nature, but that's not good enough because nature is flawed and impermanent; at the sestet--"but thy eternal summer shall not fade..." he says that she will live forever fair (the metaphor is not entirely rejected but is being reinvented) and, finally, at the end, he says how he'll accomplish this godlike act: she'll live on in a permanent, unfading summer (her beauty will last forever) because he is writing a poem about her. And, arrogant as it sounded, in his case, it worked: his poem has long since outlived her. 

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What is the problem presented in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

All sonnets do this...the "turn" or the switch from problem or situation to answer is different for most sonnets.  Petrarchan or Italian sonnets usually "turn" after the first eight lines.  Sonnet 43 "How do I love thee" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one exception since her Italian sonnet begins to "turn" after the first line.

English sonnets--either Shakespearian or Spenserian (Edmund Spenser) turn after the first 12 lines.

I like to call the "turn" the BIG BUT.  The turn is usually begun with some transitional word or conjunction like yet, but, so, etc.

So, read your sonnet a min imum of 3 times.  First for the content--get the gist of the poem.  Second, for the problem and the solution (the turn is in there somewhere...look for the big but) Third for the rhythm and sheer beauty of the language. The more you read those 14 well-constructed lines, the better you'll understand them and the more you will learn to love poetry.

Good LUck!

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What is the problem presented in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

You are correct.  Sonnets are structured so that the first part presents a problem or asks a question, and the second part provides an answer or solution.  In Sonnet 18, the problem presented is that summer is not a sufficient way to describe the beauty of the woman Shakespeare is talking about.  He is trying to find a way to describe her beauty, but in the first 8 lines he lists off all the reasons why comparing her to a summer day doesn't work.  She is more beautiful, more fair, etc.  In the last 6 lines, Shakespeare offers the solution that her beauty will be praised for eternity within the poem he has written.

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Can you provide a critical analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

A critical analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 discusses everything from structure to rhetorical figure of speech word schemes. The structure is that of an English, or Shakespearean, 14 line sonnet having three quatrains with one ending couplet. This differs from the Italian Petrarchan sonnet form of two quatrains and one sestet with no rhyming couplet. The rhyme scheme is the traditional English sonnet scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. The underlying metaphor is built upon a comparison of his beloved's youth and beauty to a summer's day. The poetic speaker asserts that she cannot be thus compared because she shall be eternal through the power of his poetic lines.

The first quatrain (lines 1-4) says she is more lovely than a summer's day and more "temperate" than the "darling buds of May": so the summer day and she are contrasted with each other. The second quatrain says summer days can be too hot, decline, be dimmed and changed: "fair from fair sometime declines." The third quatrain says that she will not fade nor know death like a summer day will do because she will continue "in eternal lines to time." The ending couplet finalizes the theme of eternal beauty and youth caught in the poet's immortalizing lines by saying she will live as long as "men can breathe or eyes can see." The theme can thus be stated as: Eternal beauty and youth are bestowed by the poet's immortal and immortalizing lines that withstand the diminishment of time, quite unlike "a summer's day."

The structure adheres to the sonnet form that specifies a problem or complication be given in the second quatrain (lines 5-8) to the situation introduced in the first quatrain (lines 1-4). In this case, the problem (5-8) is that summer days are diminished and so is mortal beauty. The situation (1-4) is the contemplation of youth and beauty in comparative relation to a summer's day. The third quatrain (lines 9-12) offers the solution or resolution to the problem. (The subject change at line 9 is called the volta, or turn.) In this case, the solution (9-12) is to make her "eternal summer" of youth and beauty immortal through lines of poetry. The ending couplet finalizes the thought of lines 9-12 and makes the concluding pronouncement. In this case, it is:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Poetic techniques Shakespeare uses include metaphor (e.g., "too hot the eye of heaven"; "his gold complexion dimmed"); personification (e.g., "shall Death brag"); and his trademark word play where varying meanings of a word are played off of each other (e.g., "every fair from fair"). Some key rhetorical techniques used as figurative word schemes are hyperbole (e.g., "So long as men shall live"); polysyndeton, which is the use of "and" for rhetorical effect (e.g., "So long lives this and this gives life to thee"); and chiasmus, which is inverted parallelism also as in "So long lives this and this gives life to thee." The inversion is as this illustrates: lives ==> this / this ==> gives.

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Can you provide a critical analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

Your first step in writing a critical appreciation of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?") should be to analyze its prosodic structure. You should note that it follows the standard form of the English sonnet, consisting of three open quatrains and a couplet, all using iambic pentameter. Despite being rhymed as an English sonnet, it has a classically Petrarchan turn after the second quatrain. You might wish to discuss how this generic echo of the Italian form makes this more effective as a sort of anti-Petrarchan sonnet. You might also wish to note that using an established genre for love poetry enhances the claim of eternal preservation of beauty in poetic form made in the couplet.

Your second task will be analysis of the way Shakespeare uses comparison. You should discuss how the poet starts by making us assume that the poem will be a fairly straightforwardly encomiastic work, praising the beloved as even better than a summer day. In fact, however, we discover that the poet is not so much praising his beloved as himself and the power of poetry to grant immortality to its subjects. Thus you might want to talk about the effectiveness of the way Shakespeare contrasts the perfection of art with the imperfection of material and ephemeral things.

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Can you provide a critical analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

First let me talk about its structure.  Even if you are not a fan of poetry or Shakespeare, you can admire the craftsmanship with which he wrote his sonnets. Because it is a sonnet, it is a 14 line poem. That's mandatory. Depending on the sonnet type, rhyme scheme can vary, but a Shakespearean sonnet has the following rhyme scheme: ababcdcdefefgg. That scheme will break the poem into three quatrains followed by a couplet. The meter will be iambic pentameter. That means each line has 10 syllables. That's amazing to me that poets can do that. It's even more amazing that they can follow an unstressed/stressed pattern within each line. And rhyme!  

The poem itself is about Shakespeare comparing his beloved to a summer's day. Well, actually he spends quite a bit of time writing about why summer isn't all that great. It's hot, it's windy, and it ends too quickly. He tells his beloved that she is much more tempered than the crazy summer. Shakespeare then goes on to write that even though summer will fade, his beloved's beauty will never fade like summer does. In fact, her memory and beauty will live on forever. At least as long as people can read anyway, since he wrote about it in this sonnet. 

"So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, 
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

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What is the interpretation of Sonnet 18?

Anthony Hecht in his introduction to Blakemore Evans’s edited collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets argues that ‘Sonnet 18 “[…] is decisively Petrarchan, notwithstanding its Shakespearean rhyme scheme. To begin with, it is rhetorically divided into octave and sestet, the change between the two parts balanced on the fulcrum of the word but at the beginning of the ninth line.” (See The New Cambridge Shakespeare, p.9) Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’, therefore, can be interpreted from another perspective. The first eight lines (the Petrarchan octave) offer a comparison between the beloved’s beauty and a summer’s day. Shakespeare claims that his beloved is more beautiful than a summer’s day and argues that beauty from summer and nature “declines” as time progresses. In the last six lines (the Petrarchan sestet) Shakespeare notes why and how the beloved’s beauty will remain “eternal”. Shakespeare claims that his lines are “eternal” and in his “eternal lines” the beloved’s beauty will remain unchanged in perpetuity.

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What is the interpretation of Sonnet 18?

Recognition of some of the literary devices enhance our appreciation of the poem. The dominant metaphor is the beloved is a "summer's day." The first two lines make an assertion, and the colon indicates that the succeeding 2 lines explain why the beloved is more "temperate"--less volatile--in that he lacks "rough winds"--a metaphor for emotional turmoil--and the beloved is also better than "summer" (usually considered a perfect time of year) because summer is only borrowed time (leased).  The "eye of heaven" in line 5 is the sun, and the personification of the sun continues by giving him a "gold complexion." "Ow'st" (owns) in line 10 contrasts with "leased" in line 4, and the personification of death, by means of capitalizing it and giving it the quality to brag, becomes the antagonist over which the beloved wins out. The "grow'st" in line 12 gives the beloved more qualities of nature. Then, in the concluding couplet, the poet has the power of nature in that he can give life to his beloved through the poetry he writes.

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What is the interpretation of Sonnet 18?

 Sonnet 18 is one of Shakespeare's most well-known and recognized pieces of poetry.

The first quatrain is a comparison of a young man to a summer's day-and the outcome is "thou art more lovely and more temperate". The young man is perfection, and outdoes even nature. The poet is unable to give adequate crdeit to all the young man is.

The second quatrain describes the conditions that will affect such perfection. Time is fleeting, and perfection is not permanent.  It is hard to remain perfect where mortals are concerned. The summer is only one season in the year, and this refers to the inevitable aging that will occur.

The last quatrain suggests that through this poem, the young man will achieve immortality. The poet has written lines that will keep the young man alive in the minds of the reader. "So long lives this, and gives life to thee".

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Can you write an introduction about sonnet 18?

Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" is predominately about the value and the lasting effects of art as compared to nature.  The lover or object of the speaker's affection isn't the summer day.  The speaker might be tempted to compare his object to a summer day, except that the summer day falls short in the comparison. 

In short, summer days do not last, in multiple ways.  The poet's object will last, because the speaker immortalizes him/her in the poem.  That is what art does--lasts forever.  Nature does not. 

The poem concludes:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this [the poem], and this gives life to thee.

That is what the poem is about.

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Can you write an introduction about sonnet 18?

Do you mean Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

SONNET 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

This sonnet is one of Shakespeare's most famous ones because it is pretty easy to understand. It is a metaphor for his love or, as some have suggested, a dear friend. The "love" or "friend" is the summer day. The sonnet points out all the parts of a beautiful summer day that remind him of his love/friend.

The summer day has some negative aspects, however, whereas his love does not. His love "is more beautiful than a summer day" - and he explains why. His love is more temperate; sometimes a summer day can get too hot. Sometimes summer winds "shake" away the beautiful May buds. Finally, unlike the summer day, which has an end, the poet says that his love for his friend will live forever because this love is immortalized by the poet's verse.

There are some cool metaphors: the eye of heaven is the sun. "The eternal lines" are the poet's verse, etc. The sonnet has a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, gg - very regular. It is written in iambic pentameter and the couplet at the end sums up the theme, that as long as there are people on earth to read the poem, his love will live on.

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Can you sum up Sonnet 18?

Sonnet 18 begins with asking the lady if he shall compare her to a summer's day--sunny, bright, carefree, full of all that is an extension of spring--but then tells her why she is nothing like a summer's day. She is better--"more lovely and more temperate". She is not rough like the winds that shake the flowering buds of May, nor is she as short tempered as the summer season. She is even-tempered and lovely for a much longer period of time...possibly forever in his heart and mind. She will not even succumb to Death since he has written about her in this poem. She will indeed last--as will his love and admiration for her--as long as the lines of the poem do.

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Can you sum up Sonnet 18?

This fourteen-line poem begins with a straightforward question in the first person, addressed to the object of the poet’s attention: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” After a direct answer, “Thou art more lovely and more temperate,” the next seven lines of the poem develop the comparison with a series of objections to a summer day. For one example, he thinks that Summer and the May winds shake the buds. In lines 7 and 8, the poet summarizes his objections to the summer day by asserting that everything that is fair will be “untrimmed,” either by chance or by a natural process. The most obvious meaning here is that everything that summer produces will become less beautiful over time. The last six lines indicate that the person about whom Shakespeare is writing, will never be forgotten or fade, because she will be immortalized in the Sonnet.

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Analyze the dramatic situation in Shakespeare's Sonnet 18.

A dramatic situation is defined as one in which the  characters of a story are in engaged in conflicts of one sort or another and these characters and conflicts interest and compel the reader's attention. Carlo Gozzi and, later, Georges Polti identified 36 types of literary conflicts. Some of the classic types of conflicts are:
Human against Human
Human against Nature
Human against Self (inner conflicts)
Human against Supernatural
Human against Society
Human against Fate (or Destiny)
Human against Machine

So, a dramatic situation embroils one or more sympathetic (i.e., readily sympathized with) characters into one or more conflicts against themselves or against external forces.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 is a quiet contemplative sonnet in which the poetic speaker explains why his beloved is more wonderful than "a summer's day" and therefore worthy of immortality granted through being the subject of an eternal sonnet. Thus the dramatic situation must, of necessity, be a subtle one.

The characters are the poetic speaker and the implied subject of the sonnet, his beloved. The setting is nature with elements of "rough wind" and "darling buds of May" and the Sun, the "too hot eye of heaven," and "nature's changing course." The primary conflict is a surprising one and only indirectly related to the beloved and sonneteer. The conflict is that of Nature against Nature as the rough winds and burning sun chases "every fair from fair" and into declining beauty as the buds are shaken and summer's green growth ends while "nature's course" changes from full bloom to fallen blossoms and withered leaves.

The dramatic situation therefore is that (1) the sonneteer has removed his beloved from that conflict; they look at it as if it were through a window glass: the conflict does not touch the beloved. Furthermore, (2) the sonneteer insures that the conflict of Nature (physical nature) against Nature (natural human beauty) will never touch his beloved. He insures this because he will bestow eternal life and immortal beauty upon his beloved through the words and lines of his sonnet: Sonnet 18, the sonnet that immortalizes against Nature's decline.

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Can you provide a commentary on Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

Sonnet 18 is one of Shakespeare's best-known poems. It employs an extended metaphor throughout, as described in the first line—he compares his beloved to a summer's day. In every respect, the lover comes off best.

The first quatrain praises the lover as "more lovely" and "more temperate," then introduces the idea that the summer can be troubled by bad weather and is far too short: "summer's lease hath all too short a date."

In the second quatrain, Shakespeare continues to describe how summer is imperfect: the sun can be too hot or be covered by clouds. He then brings in the broader idea that all beautiful things will ultimately decay: "and every fair from fair sometimes declines," whether through "chance" or through nature's inherent progression towards death.

The third quatrain, though, introduces the idea of his beloved being immortal: "but thy eternal summer shall not fade." His lover won't become any less beautiful over time, nor will death be able to "brag" that he has defeated him, even when he grows old.

Why not? The couplet gives the answer: because the poem itself will make him immortal. The this in "so long lives this" is Sonnet 18, which Shakespeare argues will preserve the lover in memory far beyond the ordinary span of his life.

So, while Shakespeare begins the poem using the conceit of the summer's day to praise his beloved, he ultimately praises himself instead, asserting that his poem will live forever.

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Can you provide a commentary on Shakespeare's Sonnet 18?

William Shakespeare developed his own style of poetic sonnet. "Sonnet 18" is a perfect example of the Shakespearean sonnet.  The poem has fourteen lines with three quatrains and a couplet at the end. The rhyme scheme follows a set of pattern of  ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. In Shakepeare's sonnets, he changes his focus and tone in the ninth line of his poem. 

"Sonnet 18" is the first of Shakepeare's sonnets to express romantic love for a young man.  The "thee" in the poem is a"fair youth" that the poet deeply loves.  This sonnet begins as a true love poem; however, the focus changes to the eternal lines of the poem and its effect on the youth.

In the first quatrain, the poet asks a rhetorical question: Should he compare this young man to a summer's day? He intends on answering the question himself.  The man has the qualities of beauty and moderation. The summer day is also beautiful and the temperatures vary...but the day cannot compete with the man.

In the last two lines of the quatrain, the poet ridicules the summer day for the harsh wind that sometimes kills the spring blossoms; and the summertime does not last. Shakespeare employs personification when referring to the summer day's abilities:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date...

The second quatrain continues the theme of the inadequacies of the summer day in comparison to the young man's worth. The sun's beauty is  sometimes clouded over and dimmed.  Everything fades because of nature or fate.

Then, the poet changes to the young man and the poet's tribute to him.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

In the final quatrain, the poet enlists a metaphor to compare the young man again to the season.  Unlike the summer, his days will not fade away nor will his beauty be lost. Death personified will not be able to brag about how he has conquered the man as he ages.

In the couplet, the poet provides the reason why death will have no victory here. As long as men are alive and able to read this poem, the young man will never die. The poem will stand "in memorial" for the man forever. 

The poem serves two purposes: one to proclaim the beauty of the young man and the poet's love for him; and, to somewhat arrogantly, establish that the poem will make the man live forever through its words.

This poem stands the test of time.  We are still reading it today.  It thoughts are lovely. It makes the reader want to see and know the young man who was the subject of Shakespeare's love.

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Can you analyze each stanza in Sonnet 18?

This is one of Shakespeare's more famous sonnets and is thought to be part of the "Fair Youth" set of sonnet.  It is believed Shakespeare was addressing a young man of whom he was fond--perhaps a lover, more likely a friend. The style is a Petrarchian sonnet, written about love and presenting a problem in the first two quatrain, a shift in thought in the third quatrain, and a resolution of sorts in the rhyming couplet at the end.

The first quartrain begins with a rhetorical question--"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"  Shakespeare's response is in line two--the person to whom this poem is addressed is more beautiful and more temperate--more balanced--than a summer day.  Lines three and four discuss the ephemeral nature of beauty and summer--wind comes and strips the tree of its beautiful May flowers, and summer days eventually turn to fall.

Quatrain two continues the theme that good and beautiful things cannot be good and beautiful forever.  Shakespeare writes of "the hot eye of heaven"--the sun--is sometimes too hot and other times is hidden by clouds--"his gold complexion dimm'd." (lines 5 and 6.)  Lines 7 and 8 discuss how everything beautiful will lose its beauty ("fair from fair sometime declines," in this instance "fair" meaning "beauty"). This will happen by chance (or misfortune) or by nature's natural course ("nature's changing course untrimm'd".)

Line nine notifies the read of the shift in thought with the word "but."  The person to whom the poem is written is told in lines 9 and 10 that his/her beauty will not fade, like the natural things mentioned above--"thy eternal summer shall not fade/nor lose possession of that fair (beauty) thou owest."  Death will not even take this lover away (line 11) because Shakespeare is immortalizing the lover in this poem (line 12.)

The resolution in the couplet is that as long as there are people on the Earth (line 13), this poem will exist, and the lover will remain immortal and be remembered in it.

So, the overall theme is that beauty usually fade; however, the beauty of Shakespeare's beloved will last forever because Shakespeare immortalized it in a poem.

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Can you explain Sonnet 18?

I'm going to assume that you mean Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18."  That's the "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day" sonnet.  

First, it is a Shakespearean sonnet.  That means the poem is 14 lines long.  It has an ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme.  Each line is 10 syllables written in iambic feet.  That makes the entire sonnet iambic pentameter.  Furthermore, because of the rhyme scheme, a Shakespearean sonnet is comprised of 3 quatrains and ends with a couplet. 

The content of Sonnet 18 is the speaker's comparison of his lover to a summer's day.  Summer is beautiful.  Warm weather, trees with leaves, breezes, etc.  Oh, and no school usually.  Summer is amazing.  The first line proposes the comparison between summer and the lover.  The rest of the sonnet explains why the lover is more awesome and beautiful than summer.  Line two says that she is more beautiful and "temperate".  That means more stable and less extreme than say the warm day/cool night that summer has. Shakespeare also says that summer is entirely too short and not long lasting, unlike his lover. He says that her beauty will "never fade" and will outlast death itself.  

That last set of lines explains how her beauty will defy the grave.  Shakespeare more or less says that because he wrote it down, and men live and "breathe," they will be able to read this poem.  She is forever immortalized within the sonnet. I guess Shakespeare was right. 

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