Last Updated on July 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 381
Sonnet 18 is a sonnet written by famed English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It is the bard’s most famous and most popular lyrical poem and among the more famous poems in English literature. The poem is written in the form of a love confession, or a statement of praise about the beloved one’s beauty and charm.
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:
The sonnet consists of fourteen lines in total, which follow an ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme pattern. The lines are of iambic pentameter, which is the most commonly used metric line in old English poetry and drama. The sonnet might be separated into four stanzas: three quatrains and a couplet.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed:
An interesting element of the sonnet is the fact that critics and analysts are often confused when it comes to its classification. Some argue that Sonnet 18 is a part of Shakespeare’s "procreation sonnets" (the first seventeen sonnets), as it has a similar thematic representation of eternity, which is a common theme in Sonnets 15, 16, and 17. Others say that the sonnet, alongside Sonnet 19, is some sort of a transition from the "procreation sonnets" to the next series of sonnets, which explore themes such as the nature of time and its meaning.
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:
Shakespeare wrote a total of 154 sonnets, many of which share the same theme of love. Because of this, Sonnet 18 is often compared to Petrarchan sonnets. Shakespeare’s sonnets influenced many poets, writers, playwrights, artist, musicians, scenarists, and even sculptors, and continue to do so to this very day. For this reason, the speaker's claims of poetic immortality in the final couplet bear genuine validity:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
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