Hello and Welcome.
I am Tutor Phil and in this video we’ll learn how to read and understand Shakespeare and particularly Sonnet 18 and this is video Part I.
Now in the series of three videos, we’ll read and analyze the structure of William’s Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. This is probably the most famous of his sonnets.
And remember that you can apply the lessons learned here in reading any piece of literature, including non-fiction.
So let’s see.
First of all let me introduce you to the concept of the Comprehension Pyramid.
The Comprehension Pyramid is the graphical representation of how comprehension works.
And the way I teach it is:
One side of it is “Structure”. At the other side of it is “Meaning”.
And the way it works is: The better you see the structure, the better you understand the meaning.
Until in the end they converge and you say “I got it!” and you have full comprehension.
And that’s how it works.
There in order to understand the meaning, we need to look for the structure. So structure comes first. If we see the structure, we will understand and comprehend the meaning.
So this is Shakespeare Sonnet 18. You can find it online, you can just pause the video and read it here but I’m not going to read for the whole thing, I’m going to assume that you have read this sonnet.
Definitely by the end of video 3 in the series, you will have full comprehension of the sonnet.
Well let’s take a look at it because we are looking for the main structure.
So first things first. Let’s get some vocabulary out of the way.
In line 1, the word “thee” simply means “you”
In line 2, the word “thou” also simply means “you”, just different (I don’t get what this word was), don’t worry about as both of these words simple mean “you”.
And in Line 9,”thy” means “your” or “yours”
Okay, quite simply.
So now, in order to see the structure, we need to continually ask these two questions.
And these are the questions:
- “What are the parts?”
- “What is the relationship between the parts?”
So we’re back to our sonnet and let’s take a closer look.
Let’s take a look at lines 1 and 2.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
“Thou art more lovely and more temperate:”
So in Line 1, Shakespeare tells you exactly right off the bat what he’s going to accomplish in this sonnet. He wants to compare thee, meaning you, to a summer’s day.
So this already signals to me that there could be possibly two parts to this sonnet. But let’s see how it works.
In line 2, he actually gives you the contrast. “You are more lovely and more temperate than the summer”.
And as result, line 1 and 2 contain the argument, much like an argumentative essay.
In fact this is a perfect exposition. This works like a perfect college essay would work in which you would say, “okay this is exactly what I’m going to support, this is exactly what I’m going to prove and this is how I’m going to prove it.
This is exactly what I’m going to do, I going to compare you to the summer. And this is exactly what I’m going to say about it,’ You are more lovely and more temperate’ ”
It’s a perfectly clear argument.
So again Shakespeare is about to compare you to the summer and it is perfectly clear right from the beginning.
To find our main structure, we have to look for some key words and what are the key words?
The keywords are words like “and” or the word “but” and their permutations.
For example, version of the word “and” would be “in addition”, “also” and so on;
And versions of the word “but” could be “however”, “nevertheless”, “unfortunately” and words like that.
So our keyword here is the word “But” in line 9.
And what it does is:
The word “But” separates the two main sections of this sonnets – one is about “you” and the other one is about “summer”
And let’s take a closer look. See how perfectly Shakespeare structures this sonnet.
Line 3 to 8 are about the “summer”, they are devoted to the summer.
And line 9 to 14 are devoted to”you”.
Perfectly in accordance with line 1: “I’m comparing you to the summer.”
Now if it were completely perfect (If there is such a thing), of course “You” would come first because he mentions “you” first in line 1 and then the “summer”. But it doesn’t matter, this is Shakespeare and let him do what he wants.
This is still perfectly clear.
I’m comparing you to the summer, the “summer” is in lines 3 to 8 and “you” are in lines 9 to 14. This is perfect exposition and when I teach essay writing, this is how I teach my students to write. Put your argument upfront in the beginning and then structure essay perfectly.
This a very clear and perfect example how to write a comparative essay – in this case of course it’s a sonnet by Shakespeare.
Thanks for watching and I’ll post the link to part 2 in the description below where we’ll talk about the deeper structure of the sonnet.