Sonnet 18: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

With this anniversary month fully underway, we turn to a sonnet beloved by many for its straightforward yet beautiful message on love: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

As you read through this sonnet, consider the role of summer in describing the speaker’s object of affection. How does the use of summer as a metaphor change throughout the sonnet (i.e. how does the use of summer compare in lines 1 and 9)? Why do think that changes?

Finally, as we revisit this sonnet at least four hundred years after its penning, we ask whether you agree with the couplet’s conclusion.

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.

Discussion

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