Sonnet 18 is a typical Shakespearean sonnet that hardly departs from the “classic” rules of an English sonnet. It has fourteen lines in a simple iambic pentameter; although, there are a few strong first syllables in the poem and some lines have eleven syllables instead of just ten. None of the lines flow into the next one. All of them have a distinct stopping place except that of line 9 (as far as punctuation goes.) There are three quatrains in the poem, the third one changes the tone of the poem, that are followed up by a rhymed couplet that ends the poem. The poem also has a typical rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
Sonnet 18 is considered to be the first of the group of 108 sonnets written about a young man, however one could easily presume that the person being talked about is a woman, so since there is no suggestion in this poem of a particular sex the anonymous person will be addressed as Shakespeare’s “beloved.” Shakespeare in Sonnet 18 compares his love to a summer’s day in a twist, instead of saying how his beloved is like the sun, he tells of how his love is not like what he describes.. In the first line of the poem, the author is asking or just wondering out loud if he should compared his love to a summer’s day. The second line Shakespeare jumps right into answering the question describing his love as “lovely” and “temperate” (ln 2.) The word temperate has a few different meanings. It could mean self -restrained, a mild temperature, but also in the time of Shakespeare people would have thought the word meant a balance of the humours. This pretty much means that they believed human behavior was decided by the amount of certains types of fluids in the body.
So temperate meant someone had the right amount of those fluids. In the third line it literally is saying the rough winds of the summer can destroy the flower buds, which means his love does not have this particular trait. The fourth line uses the word “lease” as in a agreement. The point he is making is that summer is destined to end unlike his love’s beauty. Lines five and six continue to describe the sun and how it can be too hot at times and how it also can be dulled by the covering of the clouds. The word complexion generally means the look of the face’s skin, but here it also goes back to a balance of humours as did the word temperate. Shakespeare contiues on in his speaking of his love but in broader terms now.
He declares that fair (beauty) fades away, eventually, by chance or in the face of natures changes. The word “untrimm’d” (ln 8) referes to beautiful things “trimmings” being lost or the fading of beauty. However, it could also refer to a term from sailing, meaning adjeust. That would change the meaning of the word completely. It would mean in the face of natures changes beauty of his lover remains unchanged. The ninth and tenth lines of the poem is the turning point in the sonnet. He begins to argue that his love will never go away or lose its beauty. “Ow’st” (ln10) means owns and owes back. It means that either the love wont lose their beauty they own or that they would not have to give back the beauty owed that was given from nature. It sort of goes back to line four when Shakespeare speaks of the summer being a “lease”, or a temporary ownership.
Sonnet 18 has many technical devices that lie within the poem. It has repetition of words like “more lovely and more temperate” and “every fair from fair” that are used to emphasize the point being made. Shakespeare also put in the poem contrasting words in the poem such as those in lines five and six: “shines” and “dimmed.”