Critical Analysis of Shakespeare’s 18th Sonnet

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 is addressed to a young woman of great beauty and promise. Like in all other of his sonnets, he uses AB-AB rhyming style, with the rhyming couplet at the end as a conclusion. In this sonnet, the speaker warns her about the destructive power of time and age. Also, an important theme of the sonnet is the power of the speaker's poem to defy time and last forever, carrying the beauty of the beloved down to future generations. Sonnet 18 focuses on the beauty of the young lady, and how beauty fades, but her beauty will not because everyone who reads this poem will remember it.

Shakespeare starts the poem with a metaphoric question in line one asking if he should compare the woman to a summer’s day. This asks if he should compare the beauty of a summer’s day to the beauty of the girl about whom Shakespeare is writing. Line two of this poem states "Thou art more lovely and more temperate." Temperate is used as a synonym for moderate by the author. In line two the speaker is describing the loved one as more lovely and more moderate than a summer’s day. This emphasizes her beauty and how the speaker views her. Line three, "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May," tells why the woman’s beauty is greater than that of a summer’s day. Shakespeare uses "rough winds" to symbolize imperfections. The speaker is implying that there are no imperfections in the young woman, but there are in the summer, so the woman cannot be compared to a summer’s day. In line four the speaker adds to this thought by saying that the summer also does not last as long as her beauty therefore it cannot be compared to it. Line five states another imperfection of the summer. Shakespeare uses "the eye of heaven" as a metaphor in this line to describe the sun. Shakespeare uses the phrase "gold complexion dimmed" in line six, saying that sometimes the sun is not hot enough, and that, as said in line five, sometimes the sun is too hot. In lines seven and eight the speaker ends the complication by describing how nature is never perfect. Line nine starts the resolution of the poem by using the conjunction "but". "Eternal summer" in line nine is referring back to the woman’s eternal beauty, using summer to symbolize beauty, and saying that her beauty will never fail like the summer’s beauty. In lines ten, eleven, and twelve the speaker says that she, when she grows old, will not lose possession of what is fair to her (line 12), and she will not be poor in health and close to dying (line 11). Lines thirteen and fourteen say that as long as this poem is read, her beauty will never go away, because every time someone reads the poem they will be reminded of her beauty.

This poem that Shakespeare wrote, in the octave, describes how all beauty fades except for the woman about whom Shakespeare is writing. The octave also tells of how great the woman’s beauty is compared to everything else that is beautiful. In the sestet, the poem tells about how the woman’s beauty stays alive and out lives all other beauty. The poem is written in iambic pentameter. Shakespeare makes use of much symbolism, comparison, metaphor and many other figurative devices in this poem that contribute and emphasize to the overall theme of the poem.




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