The second primary characteristic of Shakespeare’s sonnet is its reliance on an implicit underlying rhythm, called the Iambic Pentameter. This is essentially a line of exactly 10 syllables in alternating weak and strong beats. This technique is used to give the poem a natural flow and beat that is easy for the reader to follow.
Sentiments of love and adoration, as well as the fear of the death of someone who represents true and infinite beauty are continuously expressed through the use of figurative language. Shakespeare uses the weather and the characteristics of the season of summer to illustrate the purpose of the sonnet, and to enforce the emotions that are its inspiration. The poet personifies summer in order to allow the reader to relate to human characteristics: "eye of heaven" with its "gold complexion." This also allows the reader to draw contrasts between the season and the beloved.
The use of comparisons and figurative language is done in order to highlight the intensity of the poet’s emotions. Having established the characteristics of summer, the poet then elaborately differentiates between the beloved and the summer’s day. This enables him to illustrate that although summer is beautiful in certain ways, it has a fickle nature. Unlike his beloved, who has an unchanging and everlasting beauty, and is in fact more beautiful than a perfect summer’s day: "Thou art more lovely and more temperate:” The beloved has an ceaseless beauty and becomes an "eternal summer", which will never fade because it is forever embodied in the sonnet: "So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." Shakespeare has used a comparison with the season’s weather in creating a simplicity and undeniable beauty in its praise of the recipient. Due to this beauty the poem, and therefore the muse, will never die: “Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade.” As long as there is life in this world the poem and beauty of his beloved who inspired it shall live on forever.
The period of time over which this poem was written is unknown. However, we are aware that Shakespeare’s collection of sonnets was published in 1609. The style of the writing is contemporary to its time; there is a constant use of certain vocabulary that is no longer regarded in the modern English language. For example, “thou”, which has over time been replaced by you. Shakespeare’s use of language which is renowned for its individuality was not always used due to the language that was common at the time. In order to comply with the Iambic Pentameter to which he rigorously followed in all his sonnets, he often changed and adapted words. For example, “mayst” from Sonnet 73, which is actually an adaptation of the word may. However, in order to maintain the rhythm of the poem the word was modified in order to allow two syllables. This technique is not used in Sonnet 18, which in my opinion pays tribute to its natural flow and almost flawless nature.
To conclude, in my opinion in order to fully understand the sonnet itself, there is a need to understand its purpose; why was it written? This question relates to the life and relationships of William Shakespeare. At the time that his poetry is believed to have been written there are several people who was rumored to have been romantically involved with, such as the Earl of Pembroke or the Earl of Southampton. However, the true muse who inspired so many masterpieces of literature is unknown. In order to understand the true content and meaning of the sonnets, an understanding of why they were written needs to be taken into account. I personally believe that they allowed him to admit his deepest fears and desires; this would explain why so many of them are based on themes that are so personal and in deeply meaningful. Many of his poems are based on the ideals of love and time and sonnet 18 is no exception. This sonnet was written as an answer to such profound joy and beauty, in order to ensure that his most treasured lover is forever in human memory; saved from the ultimate oblivion that is associated with death. William Shakespeare, who is widely acknowledged as the greatest writer of all time fell so deeply and passionately in love with an unknown beauty that he wrote Sonnet 18 in an attempt to keep their memory and most importantly of all their beauty, alive forever. An attempt that in my opinion has succeeded; a view that is supported by the popularity of his work today and the high esteem in which Sonnet 18 is especially held.