Sonnet 18

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Shakespeare listens to one of the hundreds of musical reenactments of this sonnet.

Sonnet 18 was a Shakespearian sonnet, also known as Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Many readers have expressed dissatifaction at their inability to answer "no," and be done with the sonnet right then and there.

Time of writing[edit]

While there has been much debate and controversy over this question, most experts agree it was written some time after Sonnet 17 and before sonnet 19. Also, the content of the poem suggests it might have been written in summer, possibly May.


Through rollicking iambic goodness, the speaker (probably Shakespeare) asks his lover if he can compare her to a Summer's day. We can only assume she agreed, or was asleep, since the speaker keeps going for another 13 lines uninterrupted.

The speaker then talks about winds, buds, May, summer, gold, etcetera etcetera etcetera... At around Line 9, he remembers to tie the lover back in again, reminding him that she isn't dead yet (probably meant in a romantic way). The speaker then talks about how great this poem is.

Sadly, 400 years of critics and school teachers have agreed with him.


The reference book was only marginally successful at explaining the sonnet to hundreds of slacking school children.

The sonnet's greatest achievement is the everlasting remembrance of the woman Shakespeare is writing to. The woman's immortal memory is hampered only slightly by Shakespeare forgetting to put their name. Nevertheless, what we do know about the woman, mainly:

  • She is lovely and temperate.
  • She's comparable to rough winds shaking the darling buds of May.
  • She has possession of a "fair-thou-ow'st", whatever that is.
  • Death does not brag that she wand'rest in his shade.
  • She loves men.

gives us a pretty accurate depiction of herhim.

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The complete works of William Shakespeare
Tragedies: Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Hamlet | Julius Caesar | King Lear | Macbeth | Othello | Romeo and Juliet | Timon of Athens | Titus Androgynous | Titus Andronicus | Troilus and Cressida
Comedies: A Midsummer Night's Dream | All's Well That Ends Well | As You Like It | The Comedy of Errors | Cymbeline | Love's Labour's Lost | Measure for Measure | The Merchant of Venice | The Merry Wives of Windsor | Much Ado About Nothing | Pericles, Prince of Tyre | Taming of the Shrew | The Tempest | Twelfth Night | The Two Gentlemen of Verona | The Two Noble Kinsmen | The Winter's Tale
Histories: King John | Richard I | Richard II | Henry IV, Part 1 | Henry IV, Part 2 | Henry V | Henry VI, part 1 | Henry VI, part 2 | Henry VI, part 3 | Henry VIII | Richard III | Richard IV | Richard V | Richard VI | Richard VII | Richard VIII | Richard IX | Richard X
Poems and Sonnets: Venus and Adonis | The Rape of Lucrece | The Passionate Pilgrim | The Phoenix and the Turtle | A Lover's Complaint | Sonnet 18