Sonnet 18 Analysis

617 words - 3 pages

Eternal Beauty
In Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”, the narrator employs an extended metaphor when comparing the addressee to a “summer’s day”. The metaphor is emphasized by the tone shift in line nine, and the comparison is finalized by a couplet that expands on the theme of immortality. The sonnet makes it clear that the individual’s beauty and vigor cannot be compared to commonplace nature and that the individual is something more than human.
Sonnet 18 is part of the group of sonnets that is written to address men. In this particular one, Shakespeare compares the man’s beauty to that of nature, particularly a day in the summer. The first quatrain begins the extended metaphor by implying that the man being addressed has all the qualities of a summer’s day. This immediately associates the man with the sun and all of its qualities: ...view middle of the document...

This emphasizes the qualities of the man; he is not only more beautiful and serene than a summer’s day, but he is also untroubled by life’s obstacles, always stays perfect, and lasts longer than a day in summer. The last comparison is the first mention of immortality in the sonnet, but this image is expanded upon in later lines.
Line seven continues to emphasize the theme of immortality. Shakespeare explains that “ever fair from fair sometime declines,” meaning that all beauty fades whether “by chance” or “nature’s changing course” (8). The fact that Shakespeare employs two lines to point out summer’s decline acts as a focus on a new and powerful observation. “But thy eternal summer shall not fade,” further promotes the theme of eternity. The narrator has used the last three lines to make a point: the man who is being addressed is not only better than summer in every way, but he is also immortal in his beauty. Line eleven finalizes this point by saying that even Death—used as a noun to signify a killer or even Satan himself—will not brag about having the man “wander’st in his shade.” This also creates an image of holiness and infallibility; it makes the man seem not only perfect but god-like in the reader’s eyes. It becomes obvious that Shakespeare holds this man in high esteem and adores him with all his heart. The metaphor ends on line twelve, but it is already clear that no accurate comparisons can be made between the godly youth and a rough, short, hot summer’s day.
The last couplet takes the reader’s away from the metaphor and restates the recurrent theme of immortality. Shakespeare explains that by writing this sonnet he guarantees the man eternal life for “as long as men can breath, or eyes can see,” (13). This line finalizes the man’s image as that of a being that is more than a mere human. By being able to transcend time, he becomes a god in Shakespeare’s mind.

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