Read Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ with an explanation and modern English translation, plus a video performance. Sonnet 18, with its’ first line ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ is possibly the most famous sonnet ever, and certainly one that has entered deeply into the consciousness of our culture.

Sonnet 18 original text

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 owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18 translation to modern English

Shall I compare you to a summer’s day? You are more lovely and more moderate: Harsh winds disturb the delicate buds of May, and summer doesn’t last long enough. Sometimes the sun is too hot, and its golden face is often dimmed by clouds. All beautiful things eventually become less beautiful, either by the experiences of life or by the passing of time. But your eternal beauty won’t fade, nor lose any of its quality. And you will never die, as you will live on in my enduring poetry. As long as there are people still alive to read poems this sonnet will live, and you will live in it.

Common questions about sonnet 18

What is the theme of sonnet 18?

The main theme in Sonnet 18 is the timelessness of love and beauty, death and immortality, and in particular the immortality of art. Also, the power of poetry over fate, death, and even love. The sonnet is concerned with the relationship between man and the eventual death he will encounter.

What is Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 about?

Sonnet 18 praises a friend, traditionally known as the ‘fair youth’. The sonnet is more than just a poem – it is a real thing that guarantees that by being described in the poem the young man’s beauty will be sustained. Even death will be irrelevant because the lines of verse will be read by future generations when poet and fair youth are no more. The image will live in the verse.

Is sonnet 18 about a man?

Yes. Sonnet 18 is one of a sequence of sonnets written for an unidentified young male friend of Shakespeare’s. In the sonnets, Shakespeare is urging his friend to marry and have children because his qualities and beauty are such that it would be a tragedy not to pass them on to a new generation.

Why is sonnet 18 so famous?

The opening line of the sonnet is one of the most quoted Shakespearean lines. It is also one of the most eloquent statements of the power of the written word. Shakespeare preserves his friend in the lines of the poem, where he will live forever, even after his natural death.

Harriet Walters reads Shakespeare’s sonnet 18

Interested in Shakespeare’s sonnet 18? If so you can get some additional free information by visiting our friends over at PoemAnalysis to read their analysis of sonnet 18?.

30 replies
  1. Quintin Weaver
    Quintin Weaver says:

    Dear Shakespeare,
    I enjoyed sonnet 18, and it was pretty good. Some of the kids have trouble counting to 14 and listening to instructions, but that is probably left over from elementary school when they didn’t learn their numbers to begin with. Anyhow, we enjoy reading your literature and it is a welcome break from the non-stop talking that the group in the corner is doing. Dear God, maybe they will take the hint and shut up!!!

    • william miles green
      william miles green says:

      I am a highschool kid and my sonnents are absoluty incredible! But I do not know how to spread these sonnents so that I will have the recognition. I just wish somebody could help….:(

  2. ZartS
    ZartS says:

    hey guys
    just wanted to point out a secret in the real poem.
    on lines 11 and 12, if you count the syllables, they are greater than 10
    and the rest of the lines only have 10 syllables. Why do u think this is so?

  3. devil14
    devil14 says:

    it is the most romantic thing i have ever heard shakespeare knew what is was talking about !! i can only imange what a lucky person that shakespeare wrote in this sonnet !! :’D

  4. Bethany
    Bethany says:

    is this poem about a girl or a boy because i am lead to believe that this poem ia about William Shakespeare’s boyfriend. Is this true?

      • Lola Baden
        Lola Baden says:

        Actually it is believed this was written for a man whom Shakespeare was in love with. The first 126 sonnets are believed to be written for a man. The rest are for a woman who was not his wife

  5. the one who hunts alone
    the one who hunts alone says:

    it is not true. it is for a girl!!!!!!!!!
    William Shakespeare wrote a few sonnets for girls and what life was like in england

    • Nick
      Nick says:

      No, most of Shakespeare’s Sonnet’s were actually written to William Herbet, his boyfriend. Sonnet’s 1-about 80 are all to William Herbert, and from about 80 and up are all to an unknown woman. Shakespeare was Bi sexual.

  6. Adithya
    Adithya says:

    shakespeare is my favorite poet his way of expressing him self and that too with such simplicity . every bit of the lines he says just made me love him . who else can say such delicate feelings through such simplicity. there is no one else i can compare you to.

  7. George Clooney
    George Clooney says:

    Shakespeare’s poem is fraught with intensity and is dearly intriguing. It leaves one wonderstruck with the great use of literature he includes in his poetry, and has given literature its basic fundamentals and foundation. His poetry is as beautiful as *Athena*, and continues to give back to the magnificent world of language and literature.

  8. Elon Musk holding an elon muskett in front of an elon mosque
    Elon Musk holding an elon muskett in front of an elon mosque says:

    This is a very good translating thanks I’m doing my SpainISH homewerk meme review ??

  9. Nancy J
    Nancy J says:

    Well, the translation is ok, I suppose, but Shakespeare didn’t write in Middle English. His is “modern” English. While it’s removed from today’s English in time and idioms, perhaps, it isn’t incomprehensible.


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