Analysis of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18: Famous Love Poem
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An Analysis of Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 4/17/2012

This analysis takes a look at one of Shakespeare's most famous sonnets. Sonnet 18 is a classic love poem.

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    Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

    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.

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    Overview

    Shakespeare (public domain) The rhyme scheme of a Shakesperean sonnet is abab cdcd efef gg.

    A Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains (four lines grouped together) and a couplet. Each quatrain is one unit of thought in the poem, similar to a paragraph in prose. The ending couplet comments on the preceding three quatrains.

    An analysis must take into account the general structure of a Shakesperean sonnet (and you thought poems about love were all about love).

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    Analysis

    Shakespeare An analysis of Sonnet 18 produces the following obervations:

    1. The poem begins with a simple question: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" It's a yes/no question that evokes a 13 line "no" and explains why with, ironically, a comparison to a summer's day.
    2. The first four lines, grouped together by rhyme and content, explain that summer is intemperate, too windy, and too short, neither of which fits the object of the poem (not a lover, by the way, but the person you give this to doesn't need to know this). The off rhyme of "temperate" in line 2 and "date" in line 4 draws attention to the notion that summer is finite, which contrasted with the eternal nature of poetry, highlights the poem's theme that love/friendship is eternal.
    3. The next four lines, grouped together by rhyme and content, assert that summer is "Sometime too hot" and causes a decline in appearance, something that does not suit the object of the poet's admiration.
    4. This incongruity between summer and "thee" is explained in the next four lines: "thy eternal summer shall not fade / Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest."
    5. Line 12 concludes that a poem makes for a better comparison because "in eternal lines to time thou growest."
    6. The poem's final couplet erases any doubt the reader may have about the eternal nature of the tribute, explaining that "as long as men can breathe or have eyes to see, So long lives this (Sonnet 18) and this gives life to thee."
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