Monday, 23 June 2014

SHALL I COMPARE THEE by William Shakespeare: An Analysis

 The Author:

 William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is the greatest poet and dramatist of England. He is usually considered the greatest dramatist the world has known, as well the finest poet who has written in the English language. His works have been translated into more languages than any book in the world except the Bible. He is the sweetest, the richest and the noblest poet of the Elizabethan playwrights. He has written many immortal plays and sonnets.

The Source:

 There are one hundred and fifty four (154) sonnets of Shakespeare. Sonnets 1 to 126 form a series, addressed to a beautiful youth. Sonnets 127 to 152 are addressed to a dark lady. The last two sonnets (153 and 154) are the conventional love-sonnets on Cupid. The present sonnet "Shall I Compare Thee..." is sonnet no.18 and falls in the first series.

The Theme:

 The sonnet is a sincere tribute by the poet to the eternal beauty of his friend. He feels the destructive touch of time on all worldly elements. The loveliness of summer, the beautiful buds of May, the sun -- all fair forms of nature are subjected to decay. This very thought is certainly painful, but the poet has no feelings of dismay. He is rather inspired by his firm faith in the eternal appeal of his friend's beauty. His friend will ever live and thrive, despite the cruel blow of time, through the lines of his verse written in his praise.

The Features:

   The sonnet is one of the well-known sonnets. It is addressed to a young friend of the poet, possibly the Earl of Southampton. It is vibrant with the characteristic vigour and technical artistry of Shakespeare. It clearly denotes the singularity of his theme of friendly love and devotion. It also marks his faith in his poetic power and technical innovation.
  The main theme of the sonnet is the celebration of the beauty of the poet's friend. It testifies ti his high idealism of love and his glorification of its triumph over time. The poem has a great contribution to the time-love theme of Shakespearea's sonnet. Here the poet expresses his fervent zeal to perpetuate his friend's beauty through the power of his verse. The concluding lines strike this most:
"When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breath or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
  The poem is also characterised by the compact but clear imagery drawn by the poet to describe his friend's beauty. 'The darling buds of May' shaken by the rough winds of summer, the 'gold complexion' of the sun and 'shade' of death are some images which are well conceived and sharply presented here by the poet. His happy and devoted tone is properly balanced with the images.
  The sonnet strictly follows the Shakespearean pattern. It has three quatrains and a concluding couplet. The first two quatrains express, through suitable images, the changes and decay in the natural world even in the lovely summer season. The third quatrain declares the poet's faith in the friend's everlasting beauty and its triumph over death. The whole theme is summed up in the concluding couplet where the poet happily declares that his friend shall live as long as his lines live. The poem, as a typical Shakespearean sonnet is written in iambic pentameter. There are seven rhymes in the lines -- ab, ab, cd, cd, ef, ef, gg.

The Comparison:

  In the sonnet “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” (Sonnet No. 18), William Shakespeare proposes to compare his friend to the sweet day of the summer season. A summer day is rich in the plenty as well as beauty of nature and is truly charming. But the poet considers his friend to possess no less charm, no less grace. The friend even seems to possess greater loveliness and serenity than the pleasant summer day. In fact, his beauty is more attractive and impressive than what the summer season has. Moreover, it is not subjected to the decay or mutability which is wrought by time to nature in summer. The little, lovely buds of May are often tossed by the high wind of summer. All the graceful and lovely elements of summer, too, do not last long. They have a fixed time for stay and fade away in no time. The sun, no doubt, is bright and sparkling in summer. Yet, it does not remain always pleasing and lively. Its rays become occasionally scorching, unbearable. Again, its bright, golden look changes and becomes pale now and then. In fact, every lovely natural object is subjected to some decay or change that is inevitable. But the poet’s friend has a beauty that is sure to withstand the ravages of time. The poet asserts that his friend’s beauty stands superior to the natural beauty of a summer day. 

The Hope:

  The poet expresses his firm hope for perpetuating his beauty in this mortal world through the power of his verse. He finds in his friend’s beauty greater loveliness and serenity than that of the summer day. He also feels this beauty imperishable. It is subjected to no decay or destruction, although every fair element of nature loses its beauty in course of time. The cold, cruel touch of death is unable to claim this beauty and drag it down to the dark, lifeless realm as a victim against the enlivening effect of his verse. The poet’s friend will, in fact, ever live and thrive through his verse. As long as the human race lives and loves to read, this very sonnet will remain to celebrate his beauty. It will give him an eternal life which no ravage of time can ever take away. In this transient human world, he will live ever. 

 The MCQ Data Bank:

  • Nature of the poem  >>  sonnet.
  • Shakespeare’s sonnet no. >> 18
  • Written in >> Iambic pentameter, with three quatrains and a concluding couplet.
  • Rhyme pattern >> ab, ab, cd, cd, ef, ef, gg.
  • Addressed to >> a young friend, possibly the Earl of Southampton.
  • The main theme >> time-love
  • The poet proposes to compare his friend to >> the lovely day of summer.
  • The point of comparison >> beauty
  • Shall I compare ....summer’s day >> This is a sort of rhetorical interrogation in which the question carries the answer. The poet implies here that the friend is lovelier than a summer day.
  • Temperate >> restrained, even-tempered, moderation, not of the extreme form.
  • Rough winds ... of May >> This is a case of personal metaphor.
  • The darling buds of May >> the lovely buds that bloom in the month of May.
  • Summer’s lease >> the fixed period of summer
  • A date >> a period, a specific time
  • The eye of heaven >> the sun (This is an example of the periphrasis – a roundabout statement).
  • Gold complexion >> golden rays of the sun
  • Dimm’d >> becomes pale
  • Untrimm’d >> faded, deprived of trimming, without proper trimming.
  • Eternal summer >> the enduring charms of the beauty of summer; everlasting beauty
  • Ow’st >> possess, own.
  • Nor shall Death ...in his shade >> death is here personified.
  • Brag >> boast
  • In his shade >> in his dark realm
  • Eternal lines to time >> lines which will last all through the time
  • Nature of the poem  >>  sonnet.
  • Shakespeare’s sonnet no. >> 18
  • Written in >> Iambic pentameter, with three quatrains and a concluding couplet.
  • Rhyme pattern >> ab, ab, cd, cd, ef, ef, gg.
  • Addressed to >> a young friend, possibly the Earl of Southampton.
  • The main theme >> time-love
  • The poet proposes to compare his friend to >> the lovely day of summer.
  • The point of comparison >> beauty
  • Shall I compare ....summer’s day >> This is a sort of rhetorical interrogation in which the question carries the answer. The poet implies here that the friend is lovelier than a summer day.
  • Temperate >> restrained, even-tempered, moderation, not of the extreme form.
  • Rough winds ... of May >> This is a case of personal metaphor.
  • The darling buds of May >> the lovely buds that bloom in the month of May.
  • Summer’s lease >> the fixed period of summer
  • A date >> a period, a specific time
  • The eye of heaven >> the sun (This is an example of the periphrasis – a roundabout statement).
  • Gold complexion >> golden rays of the sun
  • Dimm’d >> becomes pale
  • Untrimm’d >> faded, deprived of trimming, without proper trimming.
  • Eternal summer >> the enduring charms of the beauty of summer; everlasting beauty
  • Ow’st >> possess, own.
  • Nor shall Death ...in his shade >> death is here personified.
  • Brag >> boast
  • In his shade >> in his dark realm
  • Eternal lines to time >> lines which will last all through the time
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