6 Most Useful Short Notes from Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 18, 'Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?' ~ All About English Literature

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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

6 Most Useful Short Notes from Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 18, 'Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?'

6 Most Useful Short Notes from Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 18, 'Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?'

Q.1. “And every fair from fair sometime declines”
 - What are the different meanings of ‘fair’ here? Explain the line.

Ans. In Shakespearean Sonnet No. 18, the first ‘fair’ means ‘types of beauty’ or ‘beautiful objects’ (Concrete noun). It may allude particularly to a beautiful lady. The second fair suggests ‘fairness’ or ‘beauty’(Abstract noun).

This wonderful expression bears a high philosophy of life – the mortality of mundane objects. The beauty of every lovely things or persons decays sooner or later in accidental or natural way. Loss of beauty is the common fate of every earthly object. In this gross materialistic world, nothing is static or permanent. Not even the ‘temperate’ summer’s day or his fair and handsome friend can escape the cruel clutches of Time and Death.

Q.2. “...and this gives life to thee.”
- What does ‘this’ refer to? Who is referred to by ‘thee’? How does ‘this’ give life?

Ans. The word ‘this’ refers to this particular Shakespearean sonnet, “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”, a fine specimen of art.

Here ‘thee’ conveys to Shakespeare’s bosom friend, Mr. W.H to whom he dedicated this sonnet.

Poetry being a form of art is eternal. It has its magical charm to revive and purify human soul. Yes, his friend will die one day, but he will remain alive and fresh in the mind of the readers who will come ages after ages. It will definitely invigorate their soul with a sense of aesthetic beauty of his friend. The poet realises that his deathless verse can alone confer immortality on his friend’s matchless beauty.

Q.3. “But thy eternal summer shall not fade
          Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st”
- Who has been referred to as ‘thou’? How will death be prevented from bragging “thou wanderest in his shade”?

Ans. Shakespeare, the poet’s friend cum fair youth, Mr. W.H has been referred to as ‘thou’.

The poet is bewitched by the magnetic beauty of his friend. At first he brings inexact comparison between warm summer’s day with his friend’s passionate beauty. Just then he excels his friend beauty by putting some logic. Time marches on triumphantly, destroying every fair object. The poet however fears that his friend may lose his burning beauty. Well, he hits of a plan. He intends to confer immortality on him through his glowing verse. The poet is confident enough that his poetry will never die. Hence the equation says his friend’s beauty too never suffer an eclipse.   

Q.4. How does Shakespeare celebrate the beauty of his friend in his sonnet no. 18?
How does the poet bring the comparison between his friend’s beauty with that of summer’s beauty?

Ans. Shakespeare dedicates this sonnet to a young friend cum patron, Mr. W.H. Trough this sonnet the poet pays tribute to male beauty. With the help of imageries the he draws analogy between his dearest friend and summer season. But he soon rejects his own idea. He thinks that his friend’s beauty is far more superior to that of summer’s beauty. Yes, summer charms hearts with its majestic debonair. But it is not out of any blemishes. Its beauty is ruined by violent storm. Besides, summer is transitory. Sometimes its scorching heat is unbearable. Dark clouds often cover the mighty sun’s facial beauty. But his friend’s beauty is eternal – immemorial and everlasting as he inscribes it in his verse.

Q.5. What is the central idea or theme of the poem?
How does Shakespeare treat the theme of Time and Beauty in his sonnet no. 18?
Discuss how the theme of the poem shifts from mutability to eternity?

Ans. The poet, Shakespeare is fascinated by the paragon of beauty of his friend. Now he starts comparing it to summer’s day, a blessed season for the European. Yes summer has its pinnacle of beauty. But its beauty is transient – short-lived. Mutability is the law of life. The beauty of every lovely objects declines, despoils. But Shakespeare is conscious of his strength of poetic faculty. He openly takes the challenge. Art is long, life is short. A flower smiles today, tomorrow dies. But his friend’s beauty inscribed in his poetry will be forever. Time cannot claim poetry its charm ages after ages.

Q.6. Consider “Shall I compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” as a sonnet?

Ans. Shakespeare’s sonnet no. 18 deserves attention as a superb sonnet. The central theme of the sonnet is the fragility of human beauty because of the dual attack of time and death. Structurally it maintains Shakespearean rhyme scheme pertaining three quatrains ‘abab; cdcd; efef’ and a couplet ‘gg’. In thought the poem is Petrarchan having octave and sestet. The poem is composed in iambic pentameter with a few variations. The poem contains a sincere personal voice - ‘every fair from fair sometimes declines’. Unlike any other Elizabethan Sonneteers the poem is dedicated to his friend, Mr. W.H. Hence the poem possesses all the spices to be an excellent sonnet.

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