Friday, 21 October 2011

Analysis of “Sonnet 18″ (William Shakespeare)

About the poem

• A love poem (perfect love)
• In praise of the loved one
• Verse of 14 lines
• Has rhyming scheme – abab cdcd efef gg,
• The poem is divided into sections of four lines called quatrains and two lines at the end a couplet,
• Each line has 10 syllables called decasyllables,
• Each set of two syllables has an unstressed and a stressed sound,
• These five sets of two syllables are called iambic pentameter. For example:
/shall I / compare / thee to / a sum/mer’s day? /

Summary of poem

Quatrain 1

Praising highly his beloved (Earl of Hembrooks). He compares the beloved to a summer’s day. Even the summer’s day is considered less lovely and less constant as the beloved.

Quatrain 2

The sun is sometimes too hot in summer, or occasionally clouded over. Every beautiful thing becomes less beautiful through accident or the passing of time.

Quatrain 3

This is a transition from the first two Quatrains leading to the conclusion in the couplet. He claims that the beloved’s beauty will not fade or die because of the poem.

Quatrain 4

The poem will be read as long as man lives and therefore the beloved will live on.

The different levels of meaning in Sonnet 18

Level 1

Praising the beauty of his beloved
Comparing the beloved to beauty found in Nature
Discussing how his beloved’s beauty can remain everlasting

Level 2

The shortcoming of a summer’s day
The impermanence of beauty / Beauty is fleeting

Level 3

Only poetry can last
Boasting of the power of his verse
Preserving beauty through the generations

The core of the message in the poem

• Natural beauty can never surpass his beloved’s beauty captured in the poem.
• Your immortality depends on my poem. My poem in turn depends on man’s existence.
• So long as mankind exists, you will continue to exist.
• You can live beyond death in my poem.
• My poem preserves you forever.
• Even though physically you die, your beauty is immortalised in my poem.
• Instead of dying, you will grow famous through time as my poem becomes more and more real.

Tone of the poem

1.  Romantic - A very personal address to his beloved and telling his beloved his love.

2.  Light and carefree – The choice of a summer’s day. Why? Season of holidays and rejoicing of things coming alive.

3.  Happy – Celebrating his love.

4.  Search for perfection – Attempting to find a way to overcome the shortcomings of Nature’s beauty.

5.  Spiritual quest – To go beyond death, to reach a state of immortality. To preserve his love’s beauty.

6.  Confident – He is confident that his poem will be read and enjoyed through time.

Point of view

The poem is written in the first person pronoun.

He appreciates his beloved.

He talks of the immortality of his poem.

Poetic devices used:

1. Personification

It is to describe something by giving it human qualities. For example, “…his gold complexion dimm’d”  — the sun is like a man with golden skin

2. Metaphor

It is to describe something as if it is something else. For example, “…eye of heaven shines” – the sun has become an eye of heaven

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