Common Thesis Problems
The plot summary thesis:
This poem shows the narrator comparing his lover to a summer’s day.
Proving the universal:
“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” presents the power of love to conquer death.
The overly general thesis:
Shakespeare’s sonnets reveal how narratives can last in ways that nature cannot. [Note: if you can plug another book into your thesis, your thesis is probably too general.]
The cliché thesis:
“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” proves the point that the pen is mightier than the sword.
The list thesis:
The structure, character, and dialogue in this poem show us how all humans search for knowledge. [Nothing technically “wrong” with this thesis, but it’s really boring!]
The reader-response thesis (as a way of dealing with the “so what?”):
Shakespeare’s sonnets show how the narrator compares poetry favorably to nature to get the reader to understand how narrative lasts forever. [How can you prove this without making assumptions about “the reader”?]
Despite its seeming emphasis on love and physical beauty—traits that are often considered fleeting—Shakespeare’s sonnet “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” reveals the ways in which mortal humans can triumph over the vagaries of nature. The images that the narrator uses and the structure of the sonnet itself help to assert the power of man.
Why is it successful?
- It’s specific.
- It addresses a potential contradiction and is arguable.
- It provides a logical way to structure the argument.
- It’s fairly daring intellectually and has an interesting “so what?”
- Can you identify the various components?