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Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day ( Sonnet 18 ) - William Shakespeare ( D.A.Q.)

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day

William Shakespeare

(D.A.Q.) Marks - 05

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day (D.A.Q.)

1. How does William Shakespeare immortalize his friend’s beauty in Sonnet No 18?  

Answer: One of the main themes of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 is the power of immortality. It’s a stock theme that many poets used, but almost all of them were primarily concerned with their own reputation in the future. Shakespeare uniquely thinks of poetry as a tool to immortalize his friend. He is not concerned with his own glory.

Unlike the Roman poets, Shakespeare values his friend's identity and wants to immortalize him through his verses. In ‘Sonnet 18’, we find a feeling of confidence because the poet claims to have the power to hold on to his friend’s memory forever.

In 'Sonnet 18', the poet begins with a hyperbolic attitude towards his friend:

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and temperate.” 

Comparing the beauty of his friend to the summer day, the poet says that his friend outperforms the summer day many times in the case of beauty because there are many flaws in the summer day. Compared to the fleeting beauty of summer days, the poet's friend is more pleasant and lively. In contrast to the beauty of summer, the beauty of his friend is also eternal. Here Shakespeare is terrified of death. He knows that the icy hands of death will be put hand in hand.  

“And every fair from fair sometimes declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimmed.”

In the final couplet of ‘Sonnets 18’, the poet reaffirms his hope that ‘as long as mankind lives’ and ‘so long’, when they read this poem, the memory of his friend’s fair youth will live on for generations to come. His friend's beauty cannot be forgotten or killed.

“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

Thus, the poet has sought alternative ways to preserve his friend’s ‘unpaid’ beauty. He tries to immortalize his friend’s beauty by his powerful verses.

2. "And every fair from fair sometimes declines" - Explain.

Answer: This line occurs in Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 18.

Here the poet, William Shakespeare explores the beauty of every beautiful person or object diminishes with time. There is no permanent lease of life on any beautiful thing. This is the law of nature. The tolerant elegance of everything is sure to diminish one day or another. Nothing lasts forever. The times with its losses and the power of destructiveness destroy everything. Through this line the poet establishes here the natural truth of the process of decay which is subject to every natural phenomenon. This change occurs in all cases due to accidental misfortune or through natural processes.

3. "But thy eternal summer shall not fade"- Explain

Answer: This line is taken from William Shakespeare's Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? The poet here boldly acknowledges the truth of his friend’s eternal continuity of summer, despite the devastation over time.

The poet's friend's 'eternal summer' is mentioned here as 'the fresh ornament of the world'.

Here 'eternal summer' means the beauty of youth which is better than the charm of summer. The beauty of the poet's friend is not a matter of variability that identifies worldly matters. It denies the onslaught of destructive times. It will never fade, because it will be the eternal lease of life on the poet’s line. The summer of youth is not 'eternal' in itself, but it is captured and preserved only in Shakespeare's verses. The poet's friend is the closest of all. Nothing can steal or ultimately defile the beauty of his friend, no matter how hot the summer. His beauty continues forever.

4. Bring out the poet’s arguments to make his friend’s beauty superior to nature with the light of Sonnet No 18.

Answer: In the first quatrain of Sonnet No. 18, the poet establishes the simile and probably the young man’s superiority. The first line contains the tentative idea of comparing the friend’s beauty with that of a summer’s day. But the very next line announces that it will not be a perfect comparison because the charm of a summer’s day is definitely inferior to that of the poet’s handsome friend.

In the second quatrain, the poet considers the changing face of summer. These lines connote the discomfiture or negative points of the summer’s day –its intemperate heat, excessively strong wind, occasional dismiss and, above all, evanescence.

In the third quatrain, the poet bestows immutability to his friend through his poetry. Mutability is the law of life and nature. Every beautiful object is despoiled of external fairness either by accidents or by natural decay inherent in all things. But the beauty of the poet’s friend defies the effect of all-devouring time. It will never fade because the poet will immortalize it in his poetry.  

In the final couplet, the poet confers immortality of his friend’s beauty through the sonnet. He argues that if man survives on earth, his poetry will and the later will keep his friend’s image immortal.     

5. Why does Shakespeare say that it is inappropriate to compare his friend’s beauty to a summer’s day?

Answer: The poet first thinks of comparing the beauty of his friend of golden complexion to a bright day summer. But almost immediately he opposes the idea. His friend’s ideal beauty is much superior to the uncertain, unsteady and temporal beauty of a summer’s day. The charm of nature in summer is spoilt by excessively strong gale which harasses the buds of May. Sometimes excessive heat of the sun causes much discomfort. 

Besides, frequent advent of darkish clouds dims the daylight and diminishes the brightness of summer. But the greatest defect of the seasonal summer is that its lease over nature is of a too short period. But the poet, at all, talks about the beauty of his beloved friend in the metaphor of summer; it must be an ‘eternal summer’. Being celebrated by the poet in his immortal verse, it will defy the power of time and death.

6. How does Shakespeare show the tug of war between time and love in Sonnet No 18?

Answer: In Sonnet No 18, Shakespeare affirms the victory of love over time by the immortality conferred on love through verses. Mutability, handmaid of time, is the law of life and nature.  All the objects, we see, around us are in a flux due to ceaseless operation of time. The lovely buds of May are blown out by stormy winds of summer.  The beauty of a sunny day is spoiled by the clouds. 

In this way everything and everyone that is beautiful eventually becomes less so, or ceases to be beautiful at all. Time despoils a beauty of its beauty, but it cannot devour the fairness of the poet’s love. Even death cannot lay its icy hands on him. It is the poet’s verses that will shelter his love against time’s assaults. Once immortalized in lines of verse, his love becomes one with time. It ceases to be ‘Time’s fool’.

7. Bring out the significance of the last two lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet No 18.

Answer: It is to be mentioned that the last two lines of Sonnet No. 18 include:  

“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

 Hence, the final couplet affirms what has been said about the immutability of the beauty of the poet’s friend. In the three preceding quatrains the poet underlines the eternal power of verses to protect the beloved’s beauty against the ravages of time. Both the friend’s beauty and that of a summer’s day are bright in appearance, yet the friend’s beauty is steady and permanent while that of a summer’s day is uncertain and temporary. Changeability is the law of nature. All beautiful things and persons inevitably lose their beauty in course of time. 

Similarly, death rules over the world and all human beings are compelled to go to the shadowy world of death sooner or later but the summer-like beauty of the friend will never be on the wane and will never die. So, the final couplet announces, so long as men live on earth and can read the poetry, this sonnet will confer immortality on the poet’s beautiful young friend.


Also Read:

* Shall I Compare thee to a Summer's Day – M.C.Q

** Shall I Compare thee to a Summer's Day – S.A.Q

*** H.S. English Suggestion 2021

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