If you are ever going to memorize a sonnet of Shakespeare, Sonnet 18 may be the one because it is beautiful to say, easy to understand, and anyone with just a little practice can communicate it. Sonnet 18 is one of the sonnets written to a young man who may have been Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Was it an Elizabethan conceit or was Shakespeare really smitten? The Earl was a supporter and Shakespeare dedicated Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece to him. His life had its dramas, court intrigue, imprisonments, and a near beheading; so this romantic man from this romantic time could easily be the object of this romantic sonnet, I have no doubt.
In the Vimeo below, Sir John Gielgud reads Sonnet 18. Enjoy.
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.
I recorded Alfred Corn reading Sonnet 18 several years ago at the New York Botanical Gardens. Enjoy.
If you have the time, and it will be well spent, here is Alfred Corn reading several English Renaissance poets: Milton, Herrick, Sidney, Campion and Shakespeare.