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Sonnet 18- William Shakespeare
Transcript of Sonnet 18- William Shakespeare
•The Renaissance inspired secular views, which, in essence, focused on worldly affairs instead of those of the church.
•Followers of the Renaissance movement, or Humanists, focused mainly on the themes of love & beauty, time, and death.
•These themes, which are not uncommon in Shakespeare's works, are particularly prevalent in Sonnet 18.
•Thus, Sonnet 18 draws a drastic focus on the issues concerning time, death, and beauty.
Background and Inspiration
Sonnet 18 - William Shakespeare
In "Sonnet 18," Shakespeare creates an admiring and slightly boastful tone. The speaker compares a woman to a "summer's day," implying that she is as beautiful as nature itself. However, the speaker claims that nature's beauty is too inconsistent because it "declines" and will someday "fade." Likewise, time is inevitable and will eventually run its course on the woman's beauty. The speaker then claims that the woman's beauty can live on forever in the poem he writes for her, which will outlast even "Death" itself. For so long as "men can breathe or eyes can see," the poem will live and "give life" to the woman's beauty.
1 Shall I compare thee to a summer's
2 Thou art more lovely and more
3 Rough winds do shake the darling buds of
4 And summer's lease hath all too short a
5 Sometime too hot the eye of heaven
6 And often is his gold complexion
7 And every fair from fair sometime
8 By chance, or nature's changing course,
9 But thy eternal summer shall not
10 Nor lose possession of that fair thou
11 Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his
12 When in eternal lines to time thou
13 So long as men can breathe or eyes can
14 So long lives this, and this gives life to
Structure and Rhyme Scheme (con't)
The admiring and boastful tone created in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" is developed as the speaker compares a woman's beauty to the beauty of nature. The woman's beauty, like nature's, will eventually fall victim to time and be rendered unworthy, unless immortalized by the speaker through the poem he writes. Contrasting the quatrains of the sonnet, in which the eventual death of beauty will prevail, the couplet introduces a solution to the prevalent themes of dying beauty and time by establishing literature, or the sonnet, as a medium through which the woman's beauty can become legacy and be immortalized.
Structure and Rhyme Scheme
•Sonnet 18 is a Shakespearean (English) Sonnet made up of fourteen lines
•The first two quatrains introduce a problem, in this case, the eventual decay of beauty
•The third quatrain accompanies a tone shift and sets up the entrance for the couplet
• The couplet wraps up the poem and offers a solution to the conflict presented: immortality through literature
•The rhyme scheme in Sonnet 18 is A-B-A-B, C-D-C-D, E-F-E-F, G-G; this allows emphasis for words conveying the themes of natural beauty and its eventual decay such as "temperate . . . date," (2, 4), "shines . . . declines" (5, 7), and "fade . . . shade" (9, 11).
•This particular format allows the speaker to present a progression of ideas in each of the three quatrains
Speaker: The speaker is an admirer of beauty who is writing a poem wishing to eternalize beauty.
Occasion: The speaker comes across a beautiful woman who he decides must be rescued from the inevitable decay of time.
Audience: The speaker is directly addressing the woman, but the audience can include anyone who admires beauty and is willing to go out of their way to preserve it.
Purpose: The purpose of the sonnet is to stir readers to find a deeper meaning in love and beauty. Thereby, the readers will be inspired to attempt to preserve that beauty for as long as possible.
Subject: The sonnet considers the immortalization of beauty against the deterioration of time.
•Love & Beauty
•Literature and Writing
•Man and the Natural World
Love & Beauty
Sonnet 18 is, at its core, a love poem. The speaker is equating the woman to the ultimate beauty: nature. This gesture helps the reader understand that the scale with which the speaker measures the woman's beauty is massive.
In Sonnet 18, time can be perceived chronologically as it progresses the poem. Much of the poem is based on the decay of time, and in this poem, the structure mimics time's deteriorating pattern. Through the poem's quatrains, the reader can appreciate the introduction of beauty, the inconsistencies of that beauty, followed the eventual death of beauty, and finally, its rescue from the decay of time.
Literature and Writing
The speaker of Sonnet 18 expresses the grand power that literature and writing possesses. This poem is about expressing oneself through language and thus emphasizes the notion that writing can trump beauty, time, and death, as the couplet suggests.
Man and the Natural World
Sonnet 18, in its entirety can be seen as an extended metaphor which pits man's perception of beauty against time's relentless decomposition. The speaker claims that time will eventually fade all that there is to beauty; the subject of that beauty may not survive, but its legacy, assuredly, will.
The use of visual imagery allows the speaker to depict the beauty of nature.He does this by initiating a description of a "summer's day" (1) and vividly depicting summer's "darling buds" (3) and "gold complexion" (6). When the speaker mentions that the woman's summer is "eternal" (9) and "shall not fade" (9), he implies that the woman's beauty supersedes that of nature, and thus allows the reader to understand that the woman is truly a beauty worthy of eternalizing in literature.
Through personification, the speaker has the ability to downscale the grand scheme of nature and identify it as just another one of time's victims. The speaker claims that "summer's lease hath all too short a date" (4). The speaker suggests that summer leases a time of year. Additionally, the speaker states that the lease summer takes out on nature's seasons is often too short to enjoy or admire. In contrast, the woman's beauty, as the speaker puts it, is "eternal" (9) and can thereby be admired all through time. With the personification of summer, the reader realizes that nature's luscious beauty is ultimately victim to the erosion of time. However, because she is written of in the poem, the woman's beauty will forever survive.
The use of the rhetorical question in which the author asks if he should "compare thee to a summer's day" (1) does two things. Firstly, because a rhetorical question is not one to be answered, merely considered, it allows the speaker to continue his grand description of beauty in both nature and the woman. Secondly, it establishes the boastful and arrogant nature of the speaker. The speaker takes a confident stance in believing he can accurately describe nature's beauty, as well that of the woman who's beauty he believes surpasses nature's. This boastfulness is again reinforced when the speaker assures the woman that the poem he writes will give "life to thee" (14) and secure the longevity of her beauty.
Syntax and Punctuation
•Semicolons, or half stops, are periodically located throughout Sonnet 18, mimicking the everlasting presence of time and its eventual halt on everything, even beauty.
"And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;" (6)
"By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;" (8)
"Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;" (10)
•The only period, or full stop, in Sonnet 18 is located at the very end of the poem; this emphasizes time's ultimate grip. However, by intentionally not including periods anywhere else, the poem is established as a worthy opponent to time's grip and thereby allows Shakespeare to emphasize the power literature has over time.
"So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." (14)
•The couplet summarizes the sonnet and provides a solution to the conflict of time's decay.
•The solution is, in this case, finding immortality in literature, or the sonnet itself.
•Because the solution is presented in the final two lines of the poem, the impact of the solution is much denser and carries greater meaning.
"So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." (13, 14)
In "Sonnet 18," the speaker depicts the beauty of nature against that of a woman. The sonnet, in its entirety, is a work of love and beauty. But above that, it is an extended metaphor. The sonnet is a descriptor of the inevitable passage of time and the deterioration it causes; through literature and art, beauty can be immortalized.