Poetry Explication


“Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare begins by questioning if itis appropriate to compare ‘thee’ to a day in summer. The speakertalks about the attractiveness and even-temper of his beloved. Heprogresses to provide explanations why summer is not a good period,reasons that include wind shaking the buds emerging in spring, summerdoes not last long, and the possibility of the sun becoming too hotor blocked by clouds. The speaker progresses to note that everythingattractive ultimately dies away due to chance or changes caused bynature. This he compare to the beloved, whose summer, meaningbeautiful years, does not fade away, and neither does theattractiveness reduce. Additionally, death is incapable of takingaway the beloved, because the beloved lives in eternal lines, whichis poetry. The poem concludes by noting that provided humans liveand are able to see to be able to read, the poem lives on, whichmakes it possible for the beloved to continue living as well.

“Sonnet 18” is an illustration of a characteristic Shakespeareanwriting technique. It comprises of three quatrains organized iniambic parameter and concludes with a heroic couplet. In addition,the poem follows a rhyming scheme of ‘abab cdcd efef gg’. Thisdistinguishes the sonnet from the Italian petrarchan that comprisesof two quatrains, single sestet and lacks a rhyming couplet.Shakespeare employs the norm of separating the sonnet to twosections. One is the octave, where time is depicted as an adversaryto the passing nature of beauty, in addition to referring to diversetime passages, “day, May, summer, date”. Following the volta,emphasized by the word “but” (9), the sestet depicts time as asolution. This is apparent by the speaker noting, the everlastingnature of the youth’s attractiveness provided the sonnet progressesto exist. References are to the phrases “eternal” and “so longas” (12-14). The closing couplet has been incorporated as a sectionof the sestet, though it can stand alone. However, it makes theconcluding point effective.

Shakespeare opens the poem using a rhetorical question to “thee”(1). “Thee” is a phrase widely presumed to regard to a youthhence, resulting in the conclusion that the speaker is talking abouta young man. Conversely, the use of “I” (1) that contrasts to theuse of an un-emphasized “thou” (2), predicts that the poem doesnot mainly pay tribute to the attractiveness of the youth, rather anassertion of the writer’s writing prowess and reassurance that thesonnet becomes a future classic. This is made more apparent when thespeaker uses the phrases “in eternal lines” to refer to the poemitself (12). By doing so, Shakespeare acknowledges the existence ofreaders is interminable.

Shakespeare uses anaphora, repetition and contrasts as technicaldevices for emphasizing what he is communicating. Repetition isapparent when he says, “Thou art more lovely and more temperate”(2) and “And every fair from fair sometime declines” (7). Usingthe word more makes it apparent that the object of the poem is notjust lovely and temperate, but has an exceptional level of bothtraits. Likewise, using the word fair emphasizes the fading aware ofsomething due to summer. Anaphora, which is the repetition of openingphrases is evident when Shakespeare notes, “And often is his goldcomplexion dimmed/ and every fair from fair sometime declines”(6-7). Anaphora is also employed in lines 10-11 and 13-14. Theemphasis of contrasts happens through antithesis, “more temperate”(2) while the subsequent line begins with “rough winds” (3). Theconcluding words in the lines 5 and 6 also illustrate the use ofcontrasts “shines/dimmed”. The devices make it possible for thereader to have a better understanding of the speaker’s view ofsummer.

Music is evident in the poem through the use of alliteration. In thesonnet, alliteration works as a linking device, which enhances itseffectiveness. Shakespeare uses the technical device to ensure thatthe poem is flowing. The reader is in a position to relate to thechanges happening because of summer. For instance, when Shakespearenotes, “By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed” (8),he demonstrates that summer brings changes to nature. Anotherillustration of alliteration is in the closing line. The speakersays, “So long lives this, and this gives life to thee” (14).This means that provided the poem progresses to be read, itprogresses to be eternal. Unlike the summer, which lasts for a shortperiod, the poem will last through all seasons.

Personification is an apparent aspect all through the poem, owing tothe use of the phrase summer. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’sday?” (1), “And summer’s lease hath all too short a date” (4)and “But thy eternal summer shall not fade” (9). The speaker usesthe word summer to exemplify the character he is describing. Summer,is depicted as a period of extremes as well as disappointments, whichcontrasts to the speaker’s character. Other illustrations ofpersonification are apparent when Shakespeare refers to the sun as“his gold complexion” (6) in addition to death “shall deathbrag” (11). The personification of death and summer is intended atillustrating a human relationship. Death is an enemy to Shakespeare’slove.

Shakespeare largely employs metaphors in the poem. As the poembegins, Shakespeare introduces a comparison of the youth “thee”with summer, which progresses all through to the concluding couplet.For instance, according to the sonnet, summer’s “Rough winds doshake the darling buds of May” (3). In addition, “summer’slease has all too short a date” (4). There is an apparent contrastto the youth’s “eternal summer” that “shall not fade” (11).Summer is initially portrayed as a perfect season, but one that hasimperfections. Due to the imperfections, summer does not compare tothe perfection of the youth. Hence, is not worthy to compare summerwith the youth. A different use of metaphor is referring to the sunas “the eye of heaven” (5) and “gold complexion dimmed” (6).This implies that the sun has strength and is attractive. However,the clouds tarnish the sun’s beauty, in the similar manner theyouth’s attractiveness becomes tarnished by the passing of time.

Generally, Shakespeare uses the word summer to note how somethingcan result in many changes in nature. However, there are people thatdo not change, like the youth he describes, despite the passing oftime. This depicts the power of Shakespeare in defying time andlasting forever, conveying the attractiveness of the beloved toprospect generations. In this case, the poem will last forever to beread by many generations.

Work Cited

Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 18. English 18 Course Reader: Summer2015. Ed. Nathan Wirth.

Novato, CA: Nathan’s Mind Inc. 2015. Print.