Many students of literature fear William Shakespeare, assuming his works to be too distant in theme and too difficult in language. However, many of Shakespeare’s works present themes and ideas that can be applied to anyone’s lives. His sonnets are examples of this type of piece. They discuss relevant themes in accessible language in recognizable patterns. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 is considered his most accessible because of its timeless presentation of love.Readers seek patterns in writing, sometimes subconsciously.
Shakespeare wrote his sonnets according to a distinct pattern that, once readers encounter it, they instantly feel comfortable with it. His sonnets are always fourteen lines organized into three quatrains with a couplet at the end. They are written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line has ten syllables which alternate in emphasis. For example, the first line of Sonnet 18 reads “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” This line does indeed have ten syllables; the stress falls on the I, the -are of compare, the to, the sum of summer’s and da. Additionally, the rhyme is also recognizable. In most Shakespearean sonnets, the rhyme follows the pattern: ABABCDCDEFEFGG, in which the letters correspond to an end sound.
This pattern is easy to recognize and follow for readers. Thus, these recognizable patterns make the reader comfortable with the lines in the sonnet.In addition to its metrical patterns and identifiable rhyme, Sonnet 18 is accessible because of its language and simple literary techniques. The first line is written in language that nearly all Shakespearean students and lay readers alike can understand. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (ln.
1) sets up the pattern of metaphorical comparisons that most people learn to recognize in the early grades of their schooling. The next line asserts that his love is “more lovely and more temperate” (ln. 2) and needs no paraphrasing to see that the individual thinks his love to be beautiful and comfortable. Indeed, the language of this sonnet is borderline simple, with no archaic terms, uncommon usages or constructions or obscure, paradoxical inferences.
He continues the metaphor of his love as a delightful summer day by offering that “thy eternal summer shall not fade” (ln.9) and personifies Death by noting in line 11 that Death cannot “brag thou wander’st in his shade.” These lines reveal the simple metaphors and personification techniques that Shakespeare uses to compare his true love to something that all readers can appreciate – a mild summer day.Finally, the theme of Sonnet 18 is a timeless theme that all people can relate to – true love. This poem celebrates the speaker’s true love by using a comparison to another lovely image – the summer day.
The last two lines of the sonnet also make it clear that the poem will immortalize the speaker’s feelings for all time by making them concrete on paper as they argue, “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this and this gives life to thee” (lns. 13-14). Who has not ever loved and compared that love to something else meaningful? Who has not ever written his or her feelings down on paper in an attempt to make them lasting, clear and concrete? Readers can certainly identify with this theme of love and the speakers desire to immortalize it.Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare is an extremely accessible poem about love that nearly all readers can understand and appreciate.
The recognizable rhyme and rhythm of the poem is comforting to readers who seek patterns. The use of simple metaphors and personification to compare the love to a summer day is readily evident, not buried under allegorical layers, and the theme itself is one that nearly all people can relate to their own lives. As a result, this sonnet is one of Shakespeare’s timeless tributes to the universal emotion of love for all mankind.;;