Analysis of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

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        Analysis of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII

Shakespeare is now, and has been for many centuries, viewed as one of the greatest writers of all time. His works are highly renowned around the globe, for both his plays, that have been re-enacted countless times and his vast collection of poetry. Shakespeare’s sonnets consist of a collection of 154 were published in 1609. It is not known whether the 1609 publication comprises all the sonnets he wrote but it is likely that it does not. Many of the sonnets are intensely personal, divulging sexual interests and indulgences while others are deeply emotional, disclosing the author’s most private feelings and emotions. Sonnet 18 is an example of the latter, and is perhaps the best known and most highly acclaimed of all, despite being quite simplistic in language and intent. The theme is lucid; the stability of love and its power to immortalize poetry through its infinite beauty.

The English sonnet is a form of poetry consisting of 14 lines. The rhyming scheme is very complex, yet subtle, whilst allowing a definite flexibility in rhyme. It is as follows: abab, cdcd, efef, gg. This rhyme sequence sets the usual structure of the sonnet as three quatrains (sets of four lines) concluding with 1 couplet (a pair of lines).

The first quatrain consists of an exposition of the main theme and main metaphor, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” enforcing the first metaphor of a person being a season. The second quatrain extends and complicates this metaphor. In the case of Sonnet 18 this consists of the faults of summer, for example, being “too hot”. It is usual for there to be a pause for thought in the sonnet’s message at the end of each quatrain, especially the second, in order to add tension or allow a provocative theory to make its full impact: “By chance, our nature’s changing course untrimmed.” The third quatrain contains a Peripeteia (twist or conflict); in this case it is the shifting of the focus from the beauty of the poet’s muse to the immortality of the poem: “Thy eternal summer shall not fade.” The sonnet then resolves to its objective in the final couplet, usually allowing an emotional sentiment to end the poem; “this gives life to thee.” It reaffirms the poet's hope that as long as there is breath in mankind, his poetry shall live on, and ensure the immortality of his beloved muse.

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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 ...

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