March 4, 2024

Shakespeare Love Poems – Analysis of Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee?)

3 min read
Shakespeare Love Poems – Analysis of Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee?)

Sonnet 18 Analysis: 1st quatrain

Sonnet 18 is the most famous of Shakespeare’s love poems. In the story of the Shakespeare sonnets, the main character directs this message to the fair youth, with whom he shares a special love. Whether the love is platonic or sexual, has been debated over the years, however the romantic and loving nature of this sonnet cannot be debated. The writer begins by asking, Shall I compare you to a summer’s day?, and is comparing the fair youth’s beauty, youthfulness and vitality to that of a summer’s day. The writer also says that the fair youth is more lovely and more temperate than a summer’s day – possibly saying the fair youth is more calm, kind and gentle.

But the last two lines of this quatrain say that summer is far too short, and begin to question the fair youths good looks will they last forever

2nd quatrain

In this quatrain, negative thoughts and worries start to fill the writer’s head. He begins by carrying on with his thoughts that summer lasts very short. You can sense a a rather pensive and doubting mood as he talks about summer being too hot, and at other times being too cold – the nasty extremes of summer. So even though the fair youth is lovely, at times the fair youth can also be angry, and he can also be harsh. He then starts to question nature, “…every fair from fair sometime declines” – even fair and beautiful things the fair youth will lose its beauty to “nature’s changing course”.

3rd quatrain

But a new sense of vigour seems to have overtaken the writer at the start of this quatrain, as he says firmly, “thy eternal summer shall not fade”. He says that the fair youths beauty and vitality shall not fade. He says you will not lose your youth, or the beauty you possess, and death will not claim you for his own. The writer could be saying that the fair youths inner beauty shall not fade, and there is certainly an element to that with these poetic words, but the moreover the writer is also saying with the words ” with eternal lines” that the fair youth’s beauty is immortalised in the words of this sonnet.

Final rhyming couplet

The final rhyming couplet of any Shakespearean sonnet, this reinforces the writers previous assertion. That as long as there are people on this earth to read these words, the fair youths spirit and beauty lives on in this poem.

Here is the Shakespeare love poem, Sonnet 18. I have even separated this poem out into quatrains for you.

1st quatrain

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;

2nd quatrain

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;

3rd quatrain

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

Final rhyming couplet

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

If you want to learn more about Shakespeare love poems, or indeed, anything to do with romance and Shakespeare, have a look at some of my other posts at Shakespeare love poems