Desiring fame, celebrity, and importance, people for centuries have yearned for the ultimately unattainable goal of immortality. Poets, too, have expressed desires in verse that their lovers remain as they are for eternity, in efforts of praise. Though Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 and Spenser’s Sonnet 75 from Amoretti both offer lovers this immortality through verse, only Spenser pairs this immortality with respect and partnership, while Shakespeare promises the subject of the sonnet immortality by unusual compliments and the assurance that she will live on as long as the sonnet continues to be read. Spenser debates with his lover, treating her as his equal, and leaves his opinion open for interpretation as an example of poetic indirection.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 begins with the "whim of an inventive mind," (Vendler, 120) a rhetorical question asking if he should compare the subject of the sonnet to a Summer’s day. After the readers see that Shakespeare does not ask to compare her to anything else, we realize that this one proposed comparison to a Summer’s day is, in his mind, perfection (Vendler, 120). However, in order to truly praise the woman, he must prove that she is "more lovely and more temperate" by deprecating the metaphor (Vendler, 121).
Though the metaphor seems sweet at first, the implied answer is "no," and Shakespeare continues as to why she is not even worthy of the best possible metaphor (Colie, 36). His imagery of "rough winds" and the "too hot" sun together with the personification of Summer ("Summer’s lease hath all too short a date") support Shakespeare’s belief that Summer is too short and unpredictable to be compa...
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Shakespeare, William. "Sonnet 18." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. E Ed. M. H. Abrams. 6th ed. New York: Norton, 1996. 471.
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Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge: Harvard UP: 1998.
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