Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?

I am a big Shakespeare fan and he is one of my favorite authors. Shakespeare is regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and is famous for works like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. He wrote 38 plays, two long narrative poems and several other poems.

In addition, he wrote 154 sonnets that were published in 1609. The most common theme of Shakespeare’s sonnets is love. Most of these sonnets are addressed to a handsome young man (the first 126 sonnets); the other ones are addressed to a “dark lady”, the poet’s mistress. Shakespeare also refers to a rival poet (sonnets 78-86).

Shakespearean sonnets, also referred to as English sonnets, consist of a poem of fourteen lines. The sonnets have three four-line stanzas (quatrains) and a final rhymed couplet.

Here is my favorite Shakespearean sonnet:

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day
 Sonnet 18 
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 ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

In this sonnet, the poet compares his lover to the summer and states that his lover is better (“more lovely and more temperate”). He also describes the summer in a negative way; sometimes the sun shines too hot (“sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines”) and the summer is too short (“summer’s lease hath all too short a date”). The poet goes on and declares that the summer’s beauty will eventually fade, but that his lover’s beauty will last forever. His lover’s beauty will live on forever through the words of the poem (“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee”). The final couplet also illustrates that there is still hope for the two lovers; even though they may not live on forever through their children, they will live on through the words of the poem. Life fades away, but their love is preserved by the poet’s words and will therefore last forever!

I think that this is such a beautiful sonnet! I just love it! What is your favorite Shakespearean sonnet?


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sandy
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 14:11:17

    It is such beautiful writing, it makes me wonder why I am so Skakespeare-ignorant? I read some of his work in HS, but remember nothing!


  2. Andreea
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 15:22:49

    Sandy: Maybe you should rediscover Shakespeare:)


  3. vivienne
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 17:54:18

    I think I have an aversion to Shakespeare. I struggled to read it for A level and have never looked at it since. Perhaps I ought to rediscover it too.


  4. Kathleen
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 18:08:03

    This would be my favorite…it is beautiful but it is also the one I remember the most from school. I feel as though I should reread some of Shakespeare’s sonnets so I can pick a new favorite. I have always enjoyed Shakespeare. My son will be reading Julius Ceasar this year in high school and I look forwarding to rereading it and discussing it with him.


  5. Andreea
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 18:49:17

    Vivienne: Yes, you should rediscover him too:)

    Kathleen: That’s great:) I haven’t read Julius Caesar yet, but I really want to, because I enjoy Shakespeare so much!


  6. ds
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:19:15

    Hello, Andreea! I came over from Sandy’s blog, and can see why she recommends you so highly! I love Shakespeare…

    “Summer’s lease may have all too short a date,” but I hope the lease on your blog is very long, indeed.


  7. savidgereads
    Aug 03, 2009 @ 19:40:00

    I have to say that sadly I am not a shakespeare fan (don’t judge me) we had it rammed down our throats way way way too much at school and it just put me off him for life… well so far anyway, but maybe one day.


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