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Shakespeare's Sonnet 18: Summary, Theme & Analysis

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
In this lesson, we will analyze Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, where he compares his love to a summer's day. Shakespeare's use of imagery and figurative language creates vivid pictures for the reader.

Analyzing Sonnet 18

Summer is a warm, delightful time of the year often associated with rest and recreation. Shakespeare compares his love to a summer's day in Sonnet 18. We will first interpret this sonnet line by line:

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

(Right away, Shakespeare presents his metaphor. He is comparing his love to a summer's day.)

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

(Shakespeare believes his love is more desirable and has a more even temper than summer.)

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

(Before summer, strong winds knock buds off of the flowering trees.)

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

(Summer goes by too quickly.)

Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,

(Sometimes summer days are just too hot!)

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

(Some summer days are cloudy.)

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

(Everything beautiful in nature eventually fades away.)

By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;

(The changes happen either by accident or through nature's natural cycles.)

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

(But you, my love, have the best characteristics of summer, and these will never go away.)

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

(Your beauty will never decline.)

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

(You will never look as if you are on the brink of death.)

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

(Because I've written these lines about you, even over time . . .)

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

(As long as there are humans alive on this planet . . .)

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

(Your life and beauty will live on through this sonnet.)

Imagery and Figurative Language

Shakespeare opens the poem with a metaphor, comparing the woman he loves to all of the best characteristics of a summer's day. When we think about summer, many attributes come to mind, such as warmth, sunshine, fun, and relaxation. It is the opposite of winter and its freezing temperatures, consistent bad weather, and bleak skies. Summer represents optimism.

Shakespeare goes on to point out that summer has its downside, as well. For instance, sometimes the sun is far too hot. Summer heat can be unbearable. Also, summer days can be fickle in that they are cloudy when we think they should be warm. Finally, summer days are just too transient.

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