William Shakespeare’s “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” is a great work of art that lets a reader imagine what the author was thinking and what feelings arose when he was in love. Shakespeare wanted to demonstrate the connection between a person of his affection and love and the natural surroundings, which add to the whole ideology of passion and beauty. The sonnet presents important themes of life and death, beauty and existence in general, trying to show a reader that beauty is elegant and ever changing, just as nature and its environment.
There are four stanzas in this particular sonnet as it contains four distinct sub-themes. The first line poses the question of whether it should be or even is possible to compare a person to a day; this is the most important theme here. It narrows to other questions pertaining to the nature of a person and life. Each day in one’s life can be considered a great event because even the little things can change everything. The first stanza has great rhythm and rhyme as at the ends of lines words have endings with the same sounding. This can be observed throughout the sonnet, and it adds organization and structure. The second line immediately displays the comparison between the person the author loves and the nature of a day, which is full of imagery. The day is regarded as being less beautiful than the person, which shows the true and deep connection with the loved one. The following lines describe how one single day seems unnoticeable, depicting also its physical conditions. The “rough winds” that bend flowers and “shake” the harmony make the readers think that there is a hidden meaning (Shakespeare 3). This makes one imagine a field of flowers, bright sun and a breeze blowing. Apparently, the author was trying to say that one day is only a short moment in the whole life, whereas the beauty of a person is everlasting. The time is shown as a problem because it limits a day with the rise and set of the sun; a person, on the contrary, will stay beautiful no matter if there is light or darkness.
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In the second part of the sonnet, the main theme is the difference between the morning and night. The imagery can be seen as the mood and different kinds of qualities that a person has and sees in their loved one. As a result, there is a form of interaction between a day and a person who is being lit by the sun or darkened by the night. The poet continues to speak about the Sun which can be “too hot” (Shakespeare 5). This is somewhat of a comparison: just as one is unable to adjust the temperature and light of the sun, one cannot adjust their beauty. The comparison between the sun and “the eye of heaven” shows that both of them are looking at a person and admiring their beauty (Shakespeare 5). The sub-theme is the grandeur of the sun, which is presented as being a part of “heaven” that finds everything beautiful and purposeful. The author continues by saying that sometimes, the shining of the sun is “dimmed”. This pertains to the fact that there are moments when the sun is covered with the clouds, and, as a result, its light changes. As such, the sun can be grim and sad, just as a person, but their inner and outer beauty will be uncovered by their lover. The changing nature of the sun is also represented by the passage of time and the changing nature of people.
The third part of the sonnet reiterates that people do not live forever, though the author presents an argument that beauty is eternal. The main theme in this part is the contrast between life and death. Talking about life, the poet assures that as soon as one falls in love and sees the beauty of another person, it will stay in their mind forever. The memory and awe of something beautiful will never fade, so it can be appreciated endlessly. The sub-theme pertains to a difference between “chance, or nature’s changing course” as a chance seems to be more blind and accidental (Shakespeare 8). At the same time, nature is compared to a living thing because it can change its direction. Of course, it is possible to imagine that the changing nature and its “wants or needs” are really blind. This directly links to the fact that love and beauty are sometimes blind, and one can be unable to see the truth. Just as one cannot look at the sun and see its whole beauty since the sun rays burn the eyes and make a person blind, one may not be able to see someone’s beauty because it is ever changing and cannot be defined exactly. It is seen in the movements of a person, their way of responding to the outside environment, how they look at nature or other people, and what they think and feel about nature and love.
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