The Art of Shakespearean Sonnets

Source: Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 18.” Norton Anthology of English Literature, the Major Writers, 9th ed., edited by Greenblatt, Stephen, and M. H. Abrams. Norton, 2013, pp.541-42.


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

What gorgeous things can describe thee, Writing?

Can sweet flowers show all colors thou own?

Can birds perform all songs thou art singing?

And shining gems: all bright lights have thou shown?

Thy pureness no Holy soul dare compare

Thy creativeness Muses have to fear

Thy wisdom Athena has to aware

Thy great kindness: oh have I known too clear!

With pens and papers, thou never once cease

To share out thy soul, lovely melodies

Thy skillful pens waltz nonstop and release

Words carved deeply in human’s memories!

Yet thou lower thy noble self to me,

Such humble soul to be a friend of thee.


Since it was difficult for me to try to imitate “Sonnet 18” line by line, I chose to imitate his particular way of structuring his sonnet, the famous Shakespearean sonnet, and some old English pronouns he uses. While the imitation is full of flaws, I was able to learn about the troubles of creating a rhyme scheme while maintaining the iambic pentameter format in each line. As a result, I have to control my main message and diction and find the best way to express my ideas with such restrictions. 

With this experience, I now understand how skillful Shakespeare is not only as a playwright but also as a poet. As he creates a new sonnet structure, he shows us how writing style constantly evolves and transforms. With his sonnets, such as “Sonnet 18,” he is able succeed leaving a new poetic writing style with an interesting way of expressing ideas, especially with the turn (or volta) happens at the very end in the last couplet. In short, it is interesting to see how writing continues to evolve from traditional formats and becomes huge successes like Shakespeare’s sonnets that last until today. 

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