Structure

Outer structure

The outer structure or composition of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” consists of elements such as verse, rhyme, and meter. Here, we outline the details.

The sonnet form

“Sonnet 18” follows the structure of the English sonnet. The sonnet was originally invented in Italy in the 13th century and used as a format for love poetry. In the 16th century, an English version of the sonnet form was developed, and this is what Shakespeare uses. This form is often referred to as the Shakespearean sonnet.

The English sonnet has fourteen lines, divided into three quatrains (four-line stanzas) followed by a couplet (two-line stanza). The couplet often reinforces the thoughts presented in the quatrains, and this goes for “Sonnet 18”, too. 

In the first twelve lines, the poet debates whether the young man can be compared to a summer’s day before arguing that he will live on through the poem. In the last two lines (the couplet), the poet states that the young man will definitely live on forever as long as there are people to read the poem. The couplet begins with the word “So” which underlines that the couplet functions as a confirmation of the thoughts presented in the previous lines.

Rhyme scheme, rhythm, and meter

The sonnet follows a strict rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. One example are the last six lines of the poem:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade, E
Nor lose po...

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