Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? (Sonnet 18) by William...

Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? (Sonnet 18) by William Shakespeare


About the Poet William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is best known as the greatest dramatist of all time. However, he is also considered the first national poet of England, who brought his country much prestige at a time when nations such as France and Italy had led the rise of the European Renaissance. He is remembered as the ‘Bard of Avon’, for his place of residence was Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare was baptized on 26th April 1564. From roughly 1594 onward he was an important member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men – an eminent company of theatrical players. After the crowning of King James I, in 1603, this company changed its name to the King’s Men. The King’s Men company was very popular, and records show that Shakespeare’s works were published and sold as popular literature. Over the course of 20 years, Shakespeare wrote plays that capture the complete range of human emotion and conflict.

In the 16th century, many of the nobility were good patrons of the performing arts and friends of the actors. Early in his career, Shakespeare was able to attract the attention of Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, to whom he also dedicated his first – and second – published poems: “Venus and Adonis” (in 1593) and “The Rape of Lucrece” (in 1594).

Tradition has it that Shakespeare died on his birthday, 23rd April, 1616, though many scholars believe that this is a myth. However, church records show he was interred at Trinity Church on 25th April 1616.

About the Poem Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?

“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” is the eighteenth sonnet in a collection of sonnets entitled Shakespeare’s Sonnets. This is a collection of 154 sonnets accredited to William Shakespeare. All of the sonnets deal with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. The collection was first published in a 1609 quarto with the full stylised title: SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS. Never before imprinted. (although sonnets 138 and 144 had in fact previously been published in the 1599 miscellany The Passionate Pilgrim).

The subjects of the sonnets are usually referred to as the Fair Youth, the Rival Poet, and the Dark Lady. The poet expresses admiration for the Fair Youth’s beauty, and later has an affair with the Dark Lady. It is not known whether the poems and their characters are fictional or autobiographical.

Sonnets 1 – 17 in the sequence recommend the benefits of marriage and children. With Sonnet 18 the tone changes dramatically towards romantic intimacy, and this tone persists throughout the rest of the collection.

Setting of the Poem

This poem is set on the very page on which the poet is writing. It is on this page that the beauty of his beloved is described and immortalized. It is also this page that he thinks will survive when both he and his beloved are long gone.


Please note: N= noun, V=verb, Adj=Adjective, Adv=Adverb, P=Preposition, Pr=Pronoun

Thee (Pr): An older form of the word “you”

Thou (Pr): An older form of the word “you”

Art (V): An older form of the word “are”

Temperate (Adj): Relating to or denoting a region or climate characterized by mild temperatures

Rough (Adj): (Of weather or the sea) wild and stormy

Buds (N): Plural form of the word “bud”, that is, a compact knob-like growth on a plant which develops into a leaf, flower, or shoot

Lease (N): A contract by which one party conveys land, property, services, etc. to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment

Hath (V): An older form of the word “has”

Complexion (N): The natural colour, texture, and appearance of a person’s skin, especially of the face

Dimmed (V): Past participle form of the word “dim”, that is, make or become less bright or distinct

Fair (Adj): Beautiful

Declines (V): Third person present tense of the word “decline”, that is, (typically of something regarded as good) to become smaller, fewer, or less; decrease

Course (N): The way in which something progresses or develops

Untrimmed (Adj): Not having been trimmed or cut away

Thy (Pr): An older form of the word “your”

Eternal (Adj): Lasting or existing forever; without end

Fade (V): Gradually grow faint and disappear

Possession (N): The state of having, owning, or controlling something

Ow’st (V): Short form of the word “owest” which is, in turn, an older form of the word “owe”

Brag (V): Say something in a boastful manner

Wand’rest (V): Short form of the word “wanderest” which is, in turn, an older form of the word “wander”

Grow’st (V): Short form of the word “growest” which is, in turn, an older form of the word “grow”