Shakespeare’s sonnet 116 can be seen as the definitive response to the ‘what is love’ question. The language of the sonnet is as deep and profound as any philosopher’s could be, expressed in the most beautiful language. Love is given an identity as an immortal force, which overcomes age, death, and time itself. Love, unlike the physical being, is not subject to decay.
Shakespeare employs an amazing array of poetic devices throughout the sonnet to convey the eternal nature of love, and ends by staking everything on his observations by asserting that if he is wrong, then no-one ever wrote anything, and no-one ever loved. And in sonnet 116 – as with all of his sonnets – Shakespeare manages to squeeze all of these thoughts and words into just fourteen lines.
Shakespeare’s Complete Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Sonnet 116 Explanation In Modern English
I would not admit that anything could interfere with the union of two people who love each other. Love that alters with changing circumstances is not love, nor if it bends from its firm state when someone tries to destroy it. Oh no, it’s an eternally fixed point that watches storms but is never itself shaken by them. It is the star by which every lost ship can be guided: one can calculate it’s distance but not gauge its quality. Love doesn’t depend on Time, although the rosy lips and cheeks of youth eventually come within the compass of Time’s sickle. Love doesn’t alter as the days and weeks go by but endures until death. If I’m wrong about this then I’ve never written anything and no man has ever loved.
Love, Shakespeare tells us, isn’t something that wears itself out over weeks, months and years, but remains firm right throughout the lives of the lovers, and doesn’t even end with their death but continues until the world ends.
What’s your take on sonnet 116? Let us know in the comments section below!
I believe there is more to that Sonnet than many have stated. In all translations, something does not quite reveals the counterfactual emotional truth of True Love and why marriage would not be shaken when True Love exist and, why True Love its unshaken by any circumstances unless one allows someone to come into one’s marriage. It is to say, that, if two people’s commitment and vows are true to True Love for life, it can not and it would not be broken in any way or manner, or at any point in time (to say the least) by any outsider one does not let in, when True Love Exists your temptations and curiosities do not allow your vows to be unshaken.
“The union of two people who love each other.” I completely believe in the truth of that statement in regards both Shakespeare’s sonnet and your comments. But A Love That Is Written In The Stars cannot be founded on Deceit. The Old Hollywood film Gaslight-which won Ingrid Bergman an Oscar-clearly shows what she thought love never really existed. Dated film or not, “Gaslighting” has entered the world vocabulary and is alive and well as a term even in the 21st Century
sounds like you have no idea what you are talking about and are just trying to be fancy
I believe that everyone finds their soulmate. Maybe not quickly, but by the time you are old and gray you most likely will no longer be a single woman or man. LOVE TO ALL. XOXO God Bless the USA!!!!!
O, the absolute certainties of the artist’s verity – beyond any tenets in science. Shakespeare is so sure about the eternal quality of love that he bets his artistic reputation on it!
“The heart has reasons the mind knows nothing of”-Blaise Pascal.This sonnet is the finest piece of poetry ever written. No one will ever be able to accurately describe in scientific language Why a sunset is beautiful, or why your knees buckle and your heart melts when you hold your newborn infant in your arms for the first time. “Love” is the Most Abused Word in the English language-But Real Love-well, poets have been trying to pin down its wonder for thousands of years of recorded history-But None ever did it better than Shakespeare in this sonnet.