Literary period

William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” was probably written sometime between 1590 and 1609. It therefore dates from the early modern period of English literature, which has been important in forming the basis of English literature. 

“Sonnet 18” was published in 1609 as part of a collection of 154 son…


Textual perspective

“Sonnet 18” shares various features with other sonnets by Shakespeare. For example, both “Sonnet 18” and “Sonnet 130” reject the convention of comparing the subject to beautiful things, although they do this in different ways. 

In “Sonnet 18”, the speaker sets up a comparison between the young man and a summer’s day, but then argues that the comparison is insufficient because the young man is in fact lovelier than a summer’s day. In “Sonnet 130”, the speaker suggests that the conventional similes used by poets to describe their lovers are unrealistic or meaningless: “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; / Coral is far more red than her lips’ red”. 

The theme of time is referenced in both “Sonnet 18” and “Sonnet 116”. In “Sonnet 18”, the speaker argues “Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade, / When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.” The speaker suggests that even though the subject will age and die, he will be made immortal by the speaker’s poetry. 

In “Sonnet 116”, the speaker suggests that even though lovers inevitably die, their love will last forever: “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.”

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