Poetry Analysis: Sonnet #116- William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Sonnet #116


Bio and History:

                William Shakespeare was a dramatist who wrote some of the world’s most famous poems and plays.  Shakespeare lived in England, where during this time period, playwrights and poets thrived.  In fact, the reason Shakespeare became popular was because of how much English society relied on going to plays, and reading different poems. (Source)

Shakespeare lived during the Elizabethan times in which artists and poets thrived.  Shakespeare is known primarily as a play writer, but during the Black Plague no plays were taking place, so Shakespeare began writing poems. (Source)

                His poem, Sonnet 116, is one of his most famous poems.  It was published in 1609, and reflects his feelings about eternal, as well as unchanging love.   It is centered entirely on love, and the different aspects of it.  (Source)

                Finally and most importantly is the actual structure of Shakespeare’s sonnet.  The main structure is composed of quatrains meaning a thought particularly takes up 4 lines.  However he also has a rhyming couplet meaning in that certain portion of the poem there are only two lines rhyming, and sharing the same idea.  (Source)



Sonnet #116

By: William Shakespeare

 Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments.  Love is not loveSonnets Title Page

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

Oh, no, it is an ever fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wondering 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 prov’d,

      I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.


Audio Reading of Sonnet #116:


The Analysis:

William Shakespeare wrote these poems, not for a particular person, but rather to describe the times.  Through his sonnets, readers are now able to get a good feel for what society was like back then.  Shakespeare is one of the most if not the best writer of this time, and possibly of all time.  He used many different forms of literature in his texts, adding excitement and question about his writing.  One of the reasons he is debatably the best writer ever is because of how indirect he really is, he uses words that no one else would causing people to interpret his works in different ways.  Shakespeare discusses love throughout the entire Sonnet 116.  (Source)

                In the first line of Sonnet 116, Shakespeare is trying to get us to imagine that the person saying these things is either on a stage, or at least at a higher point than the crowd he is speaking to.  Shakespeare starts by the speaker discussing marriage.  He says, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments”. Right off the bat in the first sentence he has lots of hidden meaning in this statement.  First off it would be strange when referring to marriage to discuss true minds during this time period.  This is because in English society during this time all people cared about were beauty, passion, and heart.  In the end of the sentence Shakespeare is saying that there are no impediments, ways to stop, true love.  In the next sentence he is saying that love is not true love if your love/feelings are going to alter or change in any way.  “When it alteration finds” is referring to him saying regardless to what happens my love for you is not going to change.  To conclude the first quatrain, Shakespeare uses symbolism discussing “With the remover to remove”.  He is once again showing if you are truly in love, even after death my love will not change in any way towards you, I will still love you no matter what happens. 

                Shakespeare starts the second quatrain with a sure sign that he wants to shift thoughts, he does this by simply saying “Oh, no”.  In the first sentence he is saying that love is a mark that is always there and is never going to go away, “An ever fixed mark”.  In the next sentence Shakespeare uses a metaphor by saying, “that looks on tempests and is never shaken”.  In this he is saying that ships encounters storms and are not scared, or stirred in anyway because the light is still there.  In the next line Shakespeare refers to a “bark” and that is symbolic for a ship, because every ship in a storm is looking for a light for comfort.  The next line and last line of the quatrain has deep meaning.  “Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken” is referring to the North Star.  During this time period no one knew what stars actually were, but they did know about the North Star and they used it to help them navigate their way home.  In summary this quatrain is saying that love is a mark that is always there, just like a light house is there for a ship during a storm.  Even through fights, chaos, and crisis’s love is still going to be there.  The North-Star is also ever present and can help navigate, even though no one knows what stars really were.   It is the same for love, no one knows what it is but it can guide us and take us to many great places in life. 

                The third quatrain starts off with some personification “Love’s not Times fool”.  This is saying that love is not affected by time, love is always present.  “Through rosy lips and cheeks” refers to kids or the youth.  So basically this line is saying that although youth are subject to change over time, love is not changed.  Also, in this quatrain Shakespeare uses some great alliteration, “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”.  When Shakespeare refers to “bending sickle’s”, he is referring to the bended sickle that the grim reaper carries with him, symbolizing the end of time.  He is basically saying that love my love is not going to change by the passing hours and weeks, and my love will be around until the end of time. 

                Lastly Shakespeare concludes his sonnet with a rhyming couplet.  This particular couplet summarizes the rest of his sonnet.  People loved before Shakespeare’s time, and Shakespeare is also arguably the best writer of this time.  Shakespeare in knowing this and being cocky about it says “If this be error and upon me prov’d, I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d”.  He is boasting by saying that if I am wrong about this, and someone doesn’t agree with what I’m saying, then I never wrote, and no man has ever loved. 

 This poem connects to the Apotheosis stage of the hero journey.  Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 connects to Apotheosis because the person in the sonnet is having a self-realization.  They are realizing what love really is, and what they need to do in order to love.  The narrator in the poem is finally putting all the pieces of love together and finding out what it truly means to love and to be in love. 

William Shakespeare Signature

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