Visual Poetry: Sonnet 18


Sonnet 18, written by William Shakespeare, is one of the most notable Elizabethan sonnets to this day. The speaker of the sonnet, addresses their lover and asks the rhetorical question, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” The speaker begins to describe a summer’s day but, it is used as a metaphor for one’s life instead. At the volta, the speaker begins to talk about how unlike summer, which is temporary, their lover is eternal through this poem.

For the first line, I chose the image of a couple because the speaker is asking a rhetorical question to their lover. I wanted to represent that by finding a picture that shows a couple having a very longing conversation. The sunset shows that the physical setting is around the summertime. It builds the mood of the line, and shows the passion of the two lovers. I chose the second image because the speaker is directly speaking to the lover. It shows a girl turning around as if she is listening to someone behind her but, it also shows that the setting of the picture is appropriate since it is on a beach in the summer. The speaker is saying that the lover is far more beautiful and constant than the ever changing patterns of summer. The girl looks surprised to be hearing something, so that is why I chose this image. The third image I chose was the woman looking distressed and frustrated. The third line of the sonnet talks about how something delicate like flower buds are blown away by the rough winds of May. This translates to how fragile life is and that it is not easy. Life will create obstacles for you, but you must learn to overcome them, even if you lose things on the way. I added the additional flower petals to have both the connotative and denotative meaning in the picture. The fourth picture depicts a bouquet of dying roses. The fourth line talks about how short the season of summer is. This can expand to how short life is for human beings. Everything is bound to live and die, and we must make do with what short span of time we have on this planet. I chose the bouquet because it shows connotative meaning that life is short and everything dies at some point. But, it also shows the denotative meaning because at the end of summer, the blooming flowers begin to decay and rot. The fifth line of the poem talks about how sometimes life can become overwhelming, like how the summer heat can become an annoyance at some point. I chose an image of an exploding head because that is an accurate depiction of what if feels like to be stressed and overwhelmed by life’s merciless course. The sixth line is in contrast with the fifth line, stating that sometimes life can also be underwhelming and boring. It states that the glow of the sun is often covered by the clouds. Therefore, the warmth and brightness of life is often covered by responsibilities and duties of society. I chose an image of Bart Simpson because he looks extremely bored in class, knowing that there are better things to do. The seventh line declares that everything in this world must fade away, no matter how beautiful it is. We can see this because fair can be another way of saying beautiful. Therefore, they are saying that every beautiful thing from the next will fade at some time. I chose the picture of the tombstones because it symbolizes the concept of death very well. It helps to contrast the eternal beauty the speaker’s lover contains within them. The eighth line continues on with the concept of death. It states that death will come either by chance or naturally. I chose the image of changing seasons because it not only shows the denotative meaning of nature’s changing appearance throughout the year, but it also shows the connotative meaning that everything will die eventually, like the leaves and flowers. Flowers can die by chance, for example if they are squished beneath someone’s feet, or from a natural cause like going through it’s life cycle fully. The ninth line, or the volta, states that although summer is temporary, the beauty of the speaker’s lover is eternal. I chose the image of Audrey Hepburn because when I think of someone who people believe is beautiful even after death, I think of her. Similar to Hepburn, the legacy of the lover’s beauty will live far after her death and will be remembered forever. The tenth line continues on to say that the lover’s beauty will stay with them even as they age. They will not have to give back the beauty that they own from nature. The image I chose for the tenth line is a picture of an elderly woman alternating with a picture of a young woman. I chose this image because it shows the aging process of a person and it shows that beauty doesn’t fade away. The woman in both of the pictures look beautiful and it is prominent because the pictures alternate creating a new picture. The eleventh line talks about how not even death will take away their lover’s light. This can also mean that they can overcome any obstacle they come across and even escape death. The picture signifies people conquering something, like death. The people in the picture have overcome an obstacle like climbing a treacherous mountain and have probably faced death at one point or another while climbing it. The twelfth line states the reason why death will ever have the speaker’s lover. The reason is that the lover’s beauty will eternally be held in the words of the poem itself. The connotative meaning to this line is that the legacy of the lover will live on far after their death through the beauty of this poem. I chose a picture of books because it shows that their beauty will be preserved through words in a poem or books. In every copy of this poem, the lover will on. The thirteenth line of the poem is about how as long as human beings live on in this universe, the poem and the lover will live on too. In order to symbolize this line I chose a picture of a busy street with pedestrians walking. This appropriately shows human activity within the world and how as long this image is still relevant this poem will continue to have meaning and life. Finally, the fourteenth line tells us that as long as the poem is around, the lover will live eternally. The poem, like a vessel, will give life to the lover. I chose the photo of the floating woman because when I think of this line, it reminds me of resurrection. It also reminds me of the connection between God’s and their respective holy books. Through words and passing stories down from one generation to the next, you are able to keep traditions and people alive although they aren’t physically present.

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