The Fair Youth- Sonnets 18 to 20

by courtvanhaaren

The Procreation Sonnets end and merge with the beginning of The Fair Youth Sonnets, which start with the infamous line “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”  (Sonnet 18). Which is probably the only widely known scrap of Shakespeare’s sonnets in modern culture. (Is it unfair to base that off of my education? I certainly did not learn anything of Shakespeare’s sonnets in high school. Honestly, I don’t recall if I even knew they existed when I was a teenager, which is sad since I was in advanced courses. Meh.) 

I actually really enjoy Sonnet 18. I don’t know why, to be truthful. But I suppose there is a reason it’s one of -if not most- well known of the sonnets. 

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

I like that line the most out of this particular sonnet. It’s a beautiful promise to make to someone. To immortalize in words is a pretty promise. Maybe that’s just my particular idea of romance, but I love it all the same. 

The author reiterates his promise of immortalizing the Fair Youth in Sonnet 19 with some more pretty words. 

Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

At this point in time, I’m starting to wonder about the Fair Youth and his existence. I mean, all we know is of his beauty and his selfishness (17 sonnets commenting on him not procreating). It makes me a little leery of reading more on him. The love just seems superficial. I really hope there comes a point in these sonnets where it comments on the Fair Youth’s character and not beauty. Of course, he might not be the Fair Youth then. That name was picked for a reason. 

Is love for someone so superficial that there is 109 sonnets dedicated to only their beautiful being? I genuinely hope that there is more substance to the romance here. 

Thankfully, their is a break from immortality and beauty in Sonnet 20. It’s.., interesting to say the least. The commentary below the sonnet has some interesting notes on the intention behind the sonnet, which will be much more detailed and speculative than I could be at this point. (Remember, I’m a novice to these.)

At the bare minimum I can pick out the comments of sexuality in the poem. It gives a “born this way” vibe with: 

And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.

This sonnet is definitely one to go back to and pick apart. That’s for another day though. 

Sorry for the short post, my stomach is starting to get to me.

~C M VanHaaren

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