Critical appreciation of "Sonnet-XVIII"

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”Sonnet-XVIII”is the 18th sonnet of a long sequence of 154 sonnets composed by William Shakespeare probably between 1595-1599. This poem is one of the fire 126 sonnets addressed to a handsome young man The identity of this fortunate youth is still doubtful. Critics guess that he is perhaps the Earl of Southampton.Whatever may be the identity of the young man in the poem. It is evident that the speaker of the poem concentrates on the physical beauty of the addressed in the Elizabethan tradition The poem is a Shakespearean sonnet. It’s fourteen lines are divided into three quatrains and a couplet The idea of the beauty of the” fair youth” has been introduced by a comparison with the charm of a summer’s day in the first quatrain. In the second quatrain. The speaker argues that the beauty  of his friend is better than that of summer. A day in summer is uncertain. It may be rough. Hot or dim. The speaker  generalised that all beautiful things in nature may be destroyed accidentally or by the law of nature.In the third quatrain. The speaker suggests that the beauty of the “fair youth”will never fade nor he will ever die because the speaker has sheltered him in the immortal lines of this poem The concluding couplet rounds up the idea of the fair youth’s death less beauty. The poem is a lyric by nature. It expresses the subjective feelings of the speaker. as a lyric should do. The music in it has been created by regular beast of unaccented and accented syllables in each foot. Similarly. The sounds at the end of the lines are intricately woven to introduce music. For example. The first line ends with”ay” sound.which rhymes with the with “ay”sound at the end of the third line. Similarly. “ate” at the end of the second line rhymes with “ate” at the end of the furth line. Thus, its rhyme scheme.abab cbcb efef gg, creates its music which is the essence of a lyric. By poetic convention.a sonnet has to have 14 iambic pentameter lines.This sonnet also has 14 iambic pentameter lines. Each of the lines has five feet. Each of these feet has an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable. 

For instance
Shall l / compare / thee to / a sum/mer’s day?
 Thou art / more love / my and / more tem/ perate: 

The figures of speech of this poem are traditional and they have the Elizabethan felicity and grace. They are also well chosen. “A  summer’s day” very effectively implies the beauty of the youth. The ros metaphor is skilfully humanised in the phrase “darling buds of May”.  “Summer’s lease” adds the concept of property so that its association with flowers seems quite inevitable; “the eye of heaven”, a metaphor, associates the addressee with the  higher spheres with equal ease. The synecdoche, “every fair” refers to all fair things and generalises the beauty of the youth, which is subject to change. This change has been associated with the changing course of nature and put in contrast with the youth’s eternal summer. “Death” has been personified and a struggle between “Death” and the youth is implied to establish the fact that the youth is deathless. This is  a  Shakespearean sonnet and bears the traces of  Elizabethan period. Shakespeare like other English  sonneteers borrowed the form from petrarch. The praise of the beauty of the addressee   is   in  tune with the petrarchan tradition. However, Shakespeare differs from petrarchan rhyme scheme.  Petrarch’s rhyme scheme  is 
abba abba cde cde or cdc dcd. But  Shakespeare’s rhyme schem is  abab cdcd  efef gg. 

Moreover, the lines of  a petrarchan sonnet are hendecasyllabic   (eleven syllabic) while Shakespeare’s lines are ten syllabic. The worlds selected by Shakespeare are lucid, and easily managed to fit to the unaccented and accented beats and to the particular rhyme scheme. The smooth running lines of the poem reflect a playful movement quite befitting to the playful tone of the poem. However, the last two lines take a serious turn that suggests a tone of pride and confidence in line with the fashion of the Elizabethan period.

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