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Home » , » Write a critical Appreciation of "Sonnet-xviii"
"Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?""Sonnet-xviii" is the 18th sonnet of a long sequence of 154 sonnets composed by William Shakespeare, probably between 1595-1599. This poem is one of the first 126 sonnets addressed to a handsome young man. The identity of this fortunate youth is still doubtful. Critics guess that he is perhaps, the Earl of Southampton. Whatever may be the identity of the young man in the poem, it is evident that the speaker of the poem concentrates on the physical beauty of the addressee in the Elizabethan tradition and deeply discuss on critical appreciation.

The poem is a Shakespearean Sonnet. Its fourteen lines are divided in three quatrains and a couplet. The idea of the beauty of the "fair youth" has been introduced by a comparison with the charm of a summer's day in the first quatrain. In Britain, a day in summer is famous for its bright sunshine, beauty and charm. The image of the "Summer's day" has been used here to indicate the brightness, beauty and charm of the "fair youth". To the speaker, his friend first appears as radiant,  mirthful and charming as a day in summer. But soon he corrects himself saying that his friend is "more lovely and more temperate."The re- peated use of the word "more" implies glorification of the youth.

However, there is a doubt posed in the first line: whether"a summer's day" is a befitting comparison to his friend. The doubt has been logically illustrated in the following lines. It has been explained through a series of contrast. Several images have been used to establish the fact that the qualities of the friend are better than those of the summer's day. The summer's day has rough winds, which destroy the blooming buds of spring. Moreover, its duration is short. These suggest that the friend's  beauty is harmless and permanent.

In the second quatrain, the speaker further argues logically in order to establish that his doubt is right. Here also several images have been used to prove that the qualities of his friend are better than those of summer. The beauty of a day in summer is characteristically uncertain. Because the summer sun suddenly becomes very hot. Sometimes,it suddenly becomes dim due to clouds in the sky. The speaker then generalises that all beautiful things in nature may be destroyed accidentally or by the law of nature. All these imply that the beauty of the friend is not subject to destruction.

In the tried quatrain the speaker passes on to the positive qualities of the "fair youth".The beauty of the "fair youth" will never fade nor he will lose it. Death will never be able to defeat him and enjoy proudly its win because the speaker has sheltered him in the immortal lines of this poem.

The concluding couplet rounds up the idea of the fair youth's death- less beauty. The speaker very confidently says that the youth will continue to live with the same charming beauty as long as human beings are on the surface of the earth.

Being a sonnet, it is a lyric by nature. A lyric is basically a musical composition. This sonnet is also musical. The music in it has been created by regular beats of unaccented and accented syllables in each foot..   Similarly, the sounds at the end of the lines are intricately woven to pro- duce the music. For example, the first line ends with "ay sound, which rhymes with the "ay" sound at the end of the third line. Similarly, "ate" at the end of the second line rhymes with "ate" at the end of the fourth line. Thus, its rhyme scheme, abab cdcd efef gg, creates the music which is the essence of a lyric.

By poetic convention, a sonnet has to have 14 iambic pentameter lines. This sonnet also has 14 iambic pentameter lines. Each of the lines has five feet or metres. Each of these feet has an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable. For instance,

The figures of speech of this poem are traditional and they have Elizabethan felicity and grace. The images are also well chosen. "A summer's day" very effectively implies the beauty of the youth. The "rose" metaphor is skilfully humanised in the phrase."darling buds of May". The word "temperate" functions as a metaphor implying the contrast between the fading rose and the unfading youth. "Summer's lease" adds the concept of property so that its association with flowers seems  quite inevitable; "the eye of heaven" introduces a link between the addressee -and the higher spheres with equal ease. The synecdoche, "every fair" refers to very fair things and generalises the beauty of the youth, which is subject to change. This change has been associated with the changing course of nature and put it in contrast with the youth's eternal  summer. The image of the under world has been presented with the per- sonification of "Death" A struggle between "Death and the youth is implied here; "Death" is defeated and the fact is established that the youth is deathless. The poet's "eternal lines" will create the eternal summer, with classical evocations of an earthly paradise, only of with classical evocations of an earthly paradise, only of human race continues.

This is a Shakespearean sonnet and bears the traces of Elizabethan period. Shakespeare like other English sonneteers borrowed the Petrar- chan sonnet form. The praise of the beauty of the addressee is in tune with the Petrarchan tradition. However, Shakespeare differs from Pet- rarchan rhyme scheme. Petrarch's rhyme scheme is abba abba cde cde or cde dcd. But Shakespeare's rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. Moreover, Petrarch's sonnet lines are hendecasyllabic (eleven syllabic) while Shakespeare's lines are ten syllabic.

The words selected by Shakespeare are lucid, and easily managed to fit to the unaccented and accented beats and to the particular rhyme scheme. They largely contribute to the lyricism of the poem with ease and grace. The smooth running lines of the poem reflect a playful movement quite befitting to the playful tone of the poem. However, the last two lines take a serious turn that suggests a tone of pride and confi- dence in keeping with the fashion of the Elizabethan period.


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