Poem Analysis – “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” William Shakespeare

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

[Shakespeare praises his beloved as more beautiful than a summer’s day. He says she is more “temperate” than a summer day. While a summer day might be excessively hot or humid, he claims his beloved (and I’m going to assume that’s a she because it’s less creepy for me) is mild and easygoing.]

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

[Hey Shakespeare – get a calendar! May is in the spring not the summer. Yet seeing as he is the Father of English Literature, I am willing to cut him some slack. It is true that some summer days are too windy, especially in Tornado Alley. He also shows a clever turn of phrase when he says summer has a short lease. I love the idea of comparing a season to a cheap apartment.]

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;

[The “eye of heaven” is the sun. He is basically whining about how some days are too hot and some are overcast.]

And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;

[Everything beautiful tends to lose its beauty over time. “Fair” here means “beautiful” not just or proper.]

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

[He expresses a naïve hope that his beloved will never lose her beauty. A few lines earlier, he was saying “every fair . . .sometime declines.” Note that “sometime” here is different from “sometimes.” He does not mean that beauty sometimes declines. He means that for every beautiful person or thing, there is a certain time at which it loses its beauty.]

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

[The poet expresses hope that this poem will have great longevity. He hopes that his verses will last until the end of humanity – “so long as men can breathe.” When Shakespeare penned these lines, it might have seemed quite arrogant to presume such endurance for a poem. Yet now, as we read this poem about four hundred years since its origin, it seems unthinkable that this poem would be lost.]



  1. #1 by discoverfineacting on January 11, 2011 - 4:49 pm

    Thanks – made me laugh!

    Looks like you have the final para twice – deliberate?

    I’m just writing a bit about iambic pentameter and make some use of Sonnet 18, so it was great to come across this on twitter. Am linking. 🙂

    Take care!

  2. #2 by Amoolah on January 16, 2011 - 12:20 pm

    “Hey Shakespeare – get a calendar! May is in the spring not the summer”

    loved it hahaha

    I’m an English literature student from saudi .. I have to say that its a little bit hard to study this kind of literature because its not our mother language but its fun =)
    Keep analysing poems, I got my eyes on you hehe 😉
    You will see me around ^_^

  3. #3 by Bettie on April 24, 2011 - 4:59 am

    nice and helpful in poem analysis..i always had a hard time analysing poems and this is really helpful.

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