‘SHALL I COMPARE THEE TO A SUMMER’S DAY’

“Sonnet 18” or “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” is one of the most acclaimed of all 154 sonnets written is written by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare. The poem was likely written in the 1590s, though it was not published until 1609. Like many of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the poem grapples with the nature of beauty and with the capability of verse to express that beauty. Praising his friend (considered to be a young man), the poem essays several clichéd metaphors and similes. The young man’s beauty can be best expressed by comparing him to the poem itself.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets are usually spectacular, sometimes unsettling, and sometimes ambiguous in their meanings. As sonnets, their central theme is ‘love’, but they also exhibit upon change, time, passion, loss, betrayal, and the unsettled gap in fantasy and fact when it comes to the person you admire. These are verses composed to remember the poet’s friend for eternity. In the memorable lines of Sonnet 18 Shakespeare implies that his poem bestows immortality: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” The writer commences the appreciation of his dear friend without pretence, then he gradually creates the image of his friend into that of an ideal being. His friend is first compared to summer in the octave, but, in the line “But thy eternal summer shall not fade”, he is summer, and thus, he has transformed into the pattern by which real beauty can be judged.

The poet’s response to such great happiness and beauty is to assure that his companion is eternally in human recollection, kept from the emptiness that follows death. He comprehends that the individual human body cannot survive the passage of time and that it will ultimately wither away. As an outcome of the manner of aging, this body will die, for humankind is transient. It is said that to be born is to die. Thus, nobody can avoid death. But, the death of a person does not imply the end of the human race. Man, as a species will live on. Moreover, because of that, their creation will likewise endure. The poet understands that there is just one way to become eternal, and that is through the creation of timeless artwork. He is certain that his verse will be known and possessed in high appreciation for several generations. That is why the people of whom he expresses in his poetry will also prevail. In this way, upcoming readers of his verse will get to know that there was once a wonderful person who was the poet’s muse and inspiration. He achieves this through his verse, believing that, as history writes itself, his friend will become one with time. When the poet and his companion are no more, their fair image will be kept alive through the power of verse. Therefore, the beauty may not sustain, but the appreciation of that beauty in the poet’s expressions will live on.