Essay: "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?": Word Choice, Tone, and Point-Of-View

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Shakespeare Poem

Shakespeare on Love and Death

William Shakespeare is largely held in such high esteem by writers, scholars and historians because of the breadth and depth of his work as a playwright. It may be said that the universality and continued relevance of his folios is predicated by their unique plumbing of the depths of human experience and their unflinching confrontation of emotions and ethical debates which remain pertinent today. However, there is another dimension of Shakespeare's plays which distinguishes them from many bodies of work in literary history which do approach these same themes. Namely, it is the bard's poetic dexterity that makes his work so timeless. His turn of phrase is unlike that of any other and his prolific career is matched only by the many individual moments of rhetorical profundity. It is thus that we consider the poem "Shall I compare thee to a Summer's Day?," which stands as evidence apart from his work as a playwright to demonstrate the poetic lucidity which is at the core of this work.

Word Choice:

Word choice is one of Shakespeare's most notable strengths. Indeed, it is often said that Shakespeare possessed an enormous vocabulary, so much to the point that his authorship of so many works has been called into doubt under the assumption that one man of his background could not have known so many words. With respect to the poem in question though, the focus is on the economy of his decisions. Capable of great complexity, the poet's work here is quite appealing for its simplicity. An explicitly stated simile characterizing what we may assume to be the subject of the poet's romantic intentions as she compares to a summer's day, the work is plotted out according to a set of well-played devices.

Among the devices that carry the greatest impact in his poem, Shakespeare's personification of death offers a deeply compelling impression in the poem's eventual resolution. Here, the poem intones, "Nor shall death brag thou wand' rest in his shade," using this representation of death as a way of magnifying the scope of the beauty in its subject. There is a hyperbolic sentiment which befits a poem of love to its recipient, and which here attributes some human traits as boastfulness and desire to the otherwise abstract notion of death. To portray it this way is for Shakespeare to suggest that the subject of his poem is so beautiful as to inspire vain longing even in death. Moreover, it serves as a vehicle for the poet to ultimately declare that his subject is so beautiful that death would ultimately not be sufficient to deprive the world of it. The poet tells that "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see / So long lives this, and his gives life to thee." This is to denote that her beauty will remain to haunt all of those who have beheld her, a sentiment which the grave word choice here renders so deeply compelling.

Tone:

In many ways, the turn toward the discussion on death is something of an unexpected divergence in tone. Dark but powerful and resonant with affection, this is belied by an established tone of warmth and ease. The driving analogy of a summer's day ultimately sets the poet up for the opportunity to seize on the pleasant images which this conjures. The 'darling buds of May' and 'his golden complexion' suggest the hazy and reminiscent way that many of us tend to view summer. Indeed, the poet simultaneously appeals to this well-loved season… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?": Word Choice, Tone, and Point-Of-View.  (2010, August 1).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/compare-thee-summer-day-word-choice/870194

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""Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?": Word Choice, Tone, and Point-Of-View."  Essaytown.com.  August 1, 2010.  Accessed July 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/compare-thee-summer-day-word-choice/870194.