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Literary Response to the Reading of “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day” (Sonnet 18) and “The Marriage of True Minds” (Sonnet 116)
Love has been one of many poets' preferred topics, as implied by Plato's quote. William Shakespeare appears to be no different when one studies his sonnets, “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day” (Sonnet 18) and “The Marriage of True Minds” (Sonnet 116). Shakespeare's sonnets were first published as a collection in 1609. The personas of both poems, with the theme of love as their focus, idealize love and the subject of his or her love. In fact, it can be said that the personas of “Sonnet 18” and “Sonnet 116” are both commenting on the ideal which suggests that love is immortal and also has an immortalizing quality.
In “Sonnet 18,” the poet's use of metaphorical imagery allows the reader to have an emotional connection to poem, and reveals the stability of true love. This point is clearly illustrated by the following lines: “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate” (ll. 1-2). Shakespeare opens the poem by using a rhetorical question, which allows the persona to not only start his argument indicating whether his love interest should be compared to a summer's day, but also to allow the reader's mind to create an image which is associated with summer, and the emotions linked to that image. The persona continues by saying that his love interest is in fact better than a “summer's day” as she is “more lovely and more temperate.” The word “temperate” suggests the persona's loved one has a “more gentle” or “more restrained” beauty as indicated by the commentary located on the website, Shakespeare's Sonnets. Additionally, the Online Oxford Dictionary indicates that the word “temperate” has its origins in the late Middle Ages, and it literally means “‘not affected by passion or emotion.’” The message which is implied by the lines, as it pertains to love, is that true love is stable, constant, and is not affected by external conditions. Furthermore, this stability, which true love possesses, can be equated to immortality, which is a perpetual state of existence which is also unaffected by external conditions. Therefore, true love is equated to immortality because it continues despite the occurrences of unfavorable conditions.
Shakespeare comments on the ideal of true love having an immortalizing force in “Sonnet 18.” This is depicted by the following lines: “summer's lease hath all too short a date” (l. 4) and “But thy eternal summer shall not fade” (l. 9). The poet uses the legal term “lease” to highlight the short period which summer occurs during the year. The poet uses the legal term “lease” to highlight the short period in which summer occurs during the year. This line is contrasted with the youthful beauty of the persona's love interest which “shall not fade.” This line is a precursor to the twelfth line which states the poet's intention to allow the persona to immortalize his love interest's youthful beauty with “eternal lines” (l. 12). The persona's love for his loved one is treated as an inspiration for the poet, who immortalizes the persona's love interest in his lines. The persona's love for his loved one is treated as an inspiration for the poet, who immortalizes the persona's love interest in his lines. This message is being conveyed by the poet, that true love is not only immortal, but it also has an immortalizing quality when expressed through artistic forms, such as poetry.
Shakespeare in “Sonnet 116” permits the persona to discuss the ideal which suggests that true love is immortal and not subject to time. This is indicated by the following lines, which personify time: “Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/ Within his bending sickle's compass come; / Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks/ but bears it out even to the edge of doom” (ll. 9-12).The persona states that love is not “Time's fool,” or subjected to the dictates or confines time. However, the persona adds a realistic note when he indicates that “rosy lips and cheeks,” which forms part of the youthful beauty of the loved one (and which, of course, has gotten the interest of the persona) are affected by the ravages of time. Nevertheless, true love is able to endure until “the edge of doom.” Furthermore, these lines appear to subtly distinguish between physical attraction and true love. Physical attraction occurs when someone finds another person physically appealing. However, these physical features are subject to ruin and decay, which happens due to the passage of time. On the other hand, true love is not only moved by physical attraction, but also a deeper, innate attraction which is not influenced by the dictates of time and outward appearances. In addition, the persona notes that love is an “ever-fixed mark” (l. 5). The term “ever-fixed” suggests stability or an unchangeable quality about love which can be equated to immortality.
In conclusion, I enjoyed both “Sonnet 18” and “Sonnet 116” because I have learned that love is not only eternal, and is not restricted by the dictates of time, but love, through art has an ability to immortalize its subject. Additionally, I believe these sonnets are examples of good literature as literary devices such as imagery, personification, and rhetorical questions are used to illustrate how love as being both immortal and possessing immortalizing capabilities, through art. This thought gives meaning to the following quote by Giacomo Casanova: “Real love is the love that sometimes arises after sensual pleasure: if it does, it is immortal”
"Definition of temperate in English." Definition of temperate in Oxford Dictionary (British & World English). Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2014. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/temperate?q=temperate>.
Shakespeare, William. "Sonnet 18." Shakespeare's Sonnets. Oxquarry Books Ltd., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2014. <http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/sonnet/18>.
Shakespeare, William. "Sonnet 116." Shakespeare's Sonnets. Oxquarry Books Ltd., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2014. <http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/sonnet/116>.