William Shakespeare’s Sonnett 18

Highlander1 By Highlander1, 8th Jan 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/yyx18klt/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Poetry

A study of William Shakespeare's sonnet and the meaning of love as revealed in his wonderful poetry.

An analysis of William Shakespeare’s Sonnett 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.

In William Shakespeare’s Sonnett 18 (1595), one gets the feeling he is describing a love that goes beyond the temporal realm of times and seasons. In fact this love seems to surpass the beauty of summer by becoming a part of an eternal heavenly realm commonly called the refreshing.

English Sonnet

The English sonnet is a poem form consisting of 14 lines, each with ten stressed and unstressed syllables known as iambic pentameter, with a set rhyme scheme of: a b a b c d c d e f e f g g. “The average word has three components parts:sound,denotation, and connotation. It begins as a combination of tones and noises, uttered by the lips, tongue, and throat, for which the written word is a notation. But it differs from a musical tone or a noise in that it has a meaning attached to it,” (Perrine,35). There are three major images introduced in Sonnett 18’s three quatrains. “Imagery may be defined as the representation through language of sense experiences…the word image perhaps most often suggests a mental picture, something seen In the minds eye…,”(Perrine,50).The first quatrain introduces how short summers can be. Its summer winds, made even more frantic by her short duration seem to attempt to shake creatures under its care. The second quatrain introduces the heavenly affects, void of affection through the unsettled coursing of nature’s power. The third quatrain introduces the merging of the heavenly life with that of earthly love. It makes Shakespeare’s object of love eternal.

Love and Summer’s day

In the first line, his unknown love is compared to a summer’s day; and later verses seem to allude to some biblical verses. “…Shall I compare thee to a summer's day…?”(line 1). The connotation suggests that while earthly love may pass away, the love of the creator has no measure; “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" . (2 Peter 3:8 KJV) This sonnet creates a hyperbole in which his love is compared to a summer’s day. A hyperbole is a “Greek word, meaning excess, or throwing beyond,” (Hudson,96). This entire sonnet uses iambic meter, where the second syllable is stressed. It has five feet of syllables called a pentameter. “Since each line has five iambs, this measure is called iambic pentameter” (Hudson,115). The first line begins with 11 Syllables, and “Most poems include lines that do not conform exactly to dominant metrical patterns” (Hudson, 116).

Finite season’s

Shakespeare then goes on in the second line explaining how this love is far more beautifully balanced than the finite seasonal days. “…Thou art more lovely and more temperate…” (line 2). This line is an iambic pentameter of 9 syllables. In just two verses he is able to give the reader a sense of the grandeur of a love that is beyond time and space. It is as though the reader is given a vast view of life for the first time.

Rough Winds

The third line of verse reveals a possible meaning to what Shakespeare is trying to say so eloquently about life. “…Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May…”(line 3). This line continues Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter of ten syllables, and reveals that his love overarches all by protecting the “Darling Buds of May”. In “The Book of Trees” by William Carey Grimm, one can see the possible reasons why Shakespeare chooses the symbolic buds of Hawthorn for his poem. Grimm describes the Hawthorns with another name known as Thorn Apples. The species appear with a “…. fairly palatable flesh, and the fruits are sometimes utilized for making jelly,” (Grim, 271). Until the coming of those most beloved, the earthly summers shall continue to shake the buds of the Hawthorn tree. The Metaphorical buds are beautiful, but still pale in comparison to his true beloved. It is as if Shakespeare is bemoaning the turning of seasons, yet verse by verse he reveals the true succor of mankind’s love.

Hot Heaven

The forth line of 11 syllables warns of some ill winds that will blow as each season continues to end a shadow of eternal love.“…And summer's lease hath all too short a date…” (line 4). There is a peculiar smell that seems to make the taking the white blooms home an obvious mistake. In Ireland the blooms give off an unpleasant aroma like that of decaying flesh. This smell adds in pollination of the flowers by flies, rather than the traditional bees. In the fifth line of 10 syllables one gets the sense that an earthly love often is consumed by heavenly powers. “…Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines…” (line5). The canopy of summers heat is too livid compared to eternal love. A person needs room to grow and make mistakes. Shakespeare’s use of the word “heaven” suggests that this is both an earthly and heavenly love. In which both God, or ancient gods could embrace and understand by allowing some measure of pleasant rest.

Six the number of rest

In the sixth line of 10 syllables, like the proverbial sixth day, earthly love must come to rest. “…And often is his gold complexion dimm'd…”(line 6) .Shakespeare believes the color of summer is diminished in color by heavenly heat. The words “gold complexion” suggest a heavenly parsonage whose judgments as a father figure often can be quite harsh. Too much intensity singes its benefactor, perhaps to the point where one seeks the shade. This sixth line, as well as line eight both end with a feminine ending to allow greater flexibility. “As an unaccented additional syllable at the close of the line, the “ing” may be discounted…thus a line that counts out to eleven syllables may, at the poets discretion , become technically a ten syllable line thanks to the feminine ending” (de Roche,10).

Beauty never fades

In the seventh line 11 syllables Shakespeare points out that beauty does fade, and too much beauty of a season can nullify the clarity of real love. “…And every fair from fair sometime declines…”(line 7). The material love has no lasting beauty, without seeking that eternal love.The eighth line of 10 syllables focuses on the flaws of a finite summer. Even a diamond has flaws that make its brilliance priceless, but summer can shorten or fate can intervene. “…By chance, or nature's changing course untrimm'd…”(line 8).Socrates always laments Oedipus Tyrannous in his tragic love by asking the question of “Fate or Free Will,”(Sophocles,36) .

Love is immortal

In the ninth line of 10 syllables the sonnet shifts from the metaphorical summer to that of his love. “…But thy eternal summer shall not fade…”(line 9). He tells the reader that his love won’t ever diminish. For Shakespeare’s love is an eternal summer. The use of the word “eternal” in the ninth line suggests the connotation that this love is supernatural. In the tenth line of Shakespeare’s sonnet, his love continues with positive attributes. “… Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st…”(line10).Her fair beauty will never fade. The words “lose possession’ suggest once again that this love has immortal attributes. In the Eleventh line Shakespeare’s uses eleven syllables. It becomes clear through his verses that this love is immortal.“…Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade…” (line 11).Even death itself won’t diminish her love. This love is shown as allegory. “"Allegory is a narrative or description that has a second meaning beneath the surface one” (Perrine,357).

Religious feeling

By using allegory, “the characteristics of humility and courtesy are often associated with the code of chivalry, but they are also developed from the expressions of religious feelings,” (Hudson,50). In the twelfth line of eleven syllables Shakespeare’s words of love forever immortalize her. “…When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st…”(line 12).The two words , “Eternal lines” suggest the immortal word of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” (John :1,KJV).Shakespeare uses a term called allusion throughout most of his writing, and summertime, like love can be compared to the many senses mentioned throughout this sonnet. “Allusions vary widely in the number of readers to whom they will be familiar. The poet, in using an allusion as in a figure of speech, is always in danger of not being understood. In appealing powerfully to one reader, he may lose another reader altogether,” (Perrine, 125). In the thirteenth line of 10 syllables it is stated that this love is based on a promise of man continuing forever.“…So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see…” (line 13). For men still breathe her scent and see her love through Shakespeare’s words. This love is both a maternal and paternal. I t can be seen as the promise of the birth of Christ through a virgin bride. “Shakespeare employs the couplet to sum up or comment upon the themes or arguments of love presented in the first twelve lines of the sonnet,” (Hudson, 48).

Mag Mell

In fact this love seems to surpass the beauty of summer by becoming part of that eternal heavenly realm commonly called the refreshing. Mag Mell was a common name known to writers such as Shakespeare, and Irish folklore promising a pleasurable paradise; identified as either an island far to the west of Ireland or a kingdom beneath the ocean. In its island guise it was visited by various Irish heroes and monks, this otherworld is a place where sickness and death doesn’t exist. It is a place of eternal youth and beauty. Here, music, strength, life and all pleasurable pursuits come together in a single place. Here happiness lasts forever, no one wants for food or drink. In the fourteenth line of this sonnet, 10 syllables pictures love as a ring or circle that remains unbroken. “…So long lives this, and this gives life to thee…”(line 14). Just as the Word became flesh in our bible, so Shakespeare’s love for the bride becomes an eternal truth that lives on through his words!

Link this to "The Pallet

Works Cited

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees. Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co, 1962

Hudson A. Glenda. A Contemporary Guide to literary Terms with Strategies for Writing Essays About Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,2004

Perrine Laurence. .Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 1977

Shakespeare, William. Sonnett 18. The Heath Introduction to poetry. De Roche, Joseph.Ed. D.C. Heath and Company,1988

Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Hayes Barton Press, 2007


Buds Of Hawthorn, Sonnetts, William Shakesphere

Meet the author

author avatar Highlander1
I enjoy writing essays and fiction concerning all aspects of the sciences, particularly how they affect the world. History is a circle after all!

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Jerry Walch
9th Jan 2011 (#)

I'm really not up on Shakespeare but my wife, the liberal arts major and retired schoolteacher, tells me that you did a fabulous job on this article.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Greenfaol
11th Jan 2011 (#)

Wonderful article, excellently written, researched and structured. I love this poem, it's one of his best, I feel :D

Reply to this comment

author avatar Denise O
23rd Jan 2011 (#)

I am never disappointed when I come to one of your pages. Nicely written.
Thank you for sharing.:)

Reply to this comment

author avatar ABDULLA
18th Feb 2011 (#)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day..this sonnet is very excellent i ever read
i hope to read it

Reply to this comment

author avatar Rathnashikamani
12th Mar 2011 (#)

Excellent work of appreciation of Shakespeare.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Anymous
13th Apr 2013 (#)

I think that sonnet was nice when I first read it.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Fatma
15th Apr 2013 (#)

i think that this sonnet is was good at from the first reading and analysis

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?