Shakespeare's Sonnet True Love, Analysis, Explanation, Original Text

"True Love," one of Shakespeare's most renowned sonnets, holds the distinguished place of number 116 in his sonnet collection. The poem is addressed to Mr. W.H. and sheds light on the unrivaled qualities of genuine love. In this eloquent piece, the Bard emphasizes the timeless nature of true love and declares it to be the greatest force in the world. The poet draws a clear distinction between genuine and false love, highlighting the spiritual, divine power of true love. True love imbues its devotees with the strength to surmount any obstacle or difficulty they may encounter on their journey. Unchanging and unwavering, it is not bound by time but is a guiding light that inspires even the most bewildered among us to find their way. In this perfect English sonnet, Shakespeare's vivid imagination and masterful use of language are on full display, painting a vivid picture of the power of true love.

Sonnet 116: Text

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 wand'ring 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.

Critical analysis

Sonnet 116 is one of Shakespeare's most famous and beloved sonnets. It reflects the courtly love tradition of the sixteenth century, which placed great emphasis on the virtues of love and the manners of expressing it. The poem's message is clear and simple: true love is constant and unchanging, and it endures despite the passage of time or the challenges that life may bring. The poem's delightful use of metaphor and imagery creates a sense of beauty and pleasure, making it a pleasing and enjoyable work of literature.
The use of iambic pentameter and the sonnet form serve to enhance the poem's poetic qualities and elevate the language to a level of sophistication that is characteristic of Shakespeare's authorship. The choice of words and the meter also create a sense of rhythm and musicality that is both pleasing to the ear and effective in conveying the poem's meaning.
The concluding couplet of the sonnet, with its repetition of the phrase "I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd," is a powerful statement of the speaker's unwavering conviction in the power of true love. It also emphasizes the importance of expressing one's love and confessing it openly, rather than being tongue-tied and unable to express one's feelings.
In conclusion, Sonnet 116 is a beautiful and timeless work of literature that explores the virtues of love and the power of constancy. It is a prime example of Shakespeare's skill in crafting masterful works of poetry that delight and inspire readers even centuries after their creation.

Sonnet 116 Line by Line Explanation

Line 1: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds"
The speaker begins by declaring that he will not deny the union of two true minds in love.
Line 2: "Admit impediments. Love is not love"
He will not allow any obstacles to get in the way of true love, because real love cannot be hindered by anything.
Line 3: "Which alters when it alteration finds,"
True love does not change or fade away when it encounters change or difficulty.
Line 4: "Or bends with the remover to remove."
Love is not weakened by separation or distance.
Line 5: "O no! it is an ever-fixed mark"
The speaker is emphatic that true love is a constant, unchanging force.
Line 6: "That looks on tempests and is never shaken;"
It remains unshaken even in the face of the most severe storms or challenges.
Line 7: "It is the star to every wand'ring bark,"
True love is a guiding light for those who are lost or adrift.
Line 8: "Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken."
The value of true love cannot be measured or fully comprehended, even though its significance is evident.
Line 9: "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks"
Love is not subject to the ravages of time, although youth and beauty may fade.
Line 10: "Within his bending sickle's compass come;"
Even though time may limit the lifespan of a person, true love is not restricted by time's boundaries.
Line 11: "Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,"
True love does not change or weaken over time, even as weeks and years pass.
Line 12: "But bears it out even to the edge of doom."
True love endures until the very end, even until the brink of death.
Line 13: "If this be error and upon me prov'd,"
The speaker suggests that if he is proven wrong in his belief in the constancy of true love,
Line 14: "I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd."
then he has never written anything of value, and no one has ever truly loved.

Stylistic analysis

Sonnet 116 is written in iambic pentameter, a common poetic meter in which each line contains ten syllables with alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. This rhythm creates a sense of regularity and harmony that enhances the poetic form of the sonnet.
The poem is divided into two parts: an octave (eight-line stanza) and a sestet (six-line stanza). This is a common feature of the Petrarchan sonnet, which typically follows an ABBAABBA CDECDE rhyme scheme. In this sonnet, however, Shakespeare deviates slightly from the standard form by using a more English rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.
The use of poetic imagery is prevalent in this sonnet. The speaker employs metaphors such as "Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds" and "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle's compass come" to convey the power and steadfastness of true love. These metaphors are rich in heroic and virtuous imagery, making the poem a prime example of love poetry during the Renaissance period.
The use of repetition in the concluding couplet of the sonnet is also noteworthy. The repetition of the phrase "I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd" emphasizes the speaker's unwavering belief in the constancy of true love and creates a sense of finality and certainty.

Literary Devices in Sonnet 116

Metaphor: The first line of the poem contains a metaphor comparing true love to a "marriage of true minds," which implies a spiritual connection that goes beyond the physical.
Personification: Time is personified as a reaper with a sickle in the line "Within his bending sickle's compass come," which represents the idea of time cutting down all things, including youth and beauty.
Repetition: The phrase "Love is not love" is repeated in lines 2 and 9, creating a sense of emphasis and reinforcing the poem's central idea.
Imagery: The poem contains several examples of vivid imagery, such as the "ever-fixed mark" that true love represents, and the "tempests" that it looks upon and remains steady in the face of.
Alliteration: The lines "Or bends with the remover to remove" and "But bears it out even to the edge of doom" both contain alliteration, which creates a sense of musicality and draws attention to the words.
Hyperbole: The line "Love's not Time's fool" contains a hyperbole, exaggerating the power of love by implying that it is more powerful than time itself.
Irony: The final line of the poem contains a touch of irony, as Shakespeare asserts that if his ideas are not true, then he never wrote anything and no one has ever loved. This statement is ironic, as it is clear that Shakespeare was a prolific writer, and that many people have experienced love throughout history.

General Note on Shakespeare

Shakespeare is considered one of the greatest poets and playwrights in the English language. He is renowned for his sonnets, which are written in iambic pentameter and follow the Shakespearean sonnet structure of three quatrains and a concluding rhyming couplet. He also used other poetic forms, such as blank verse and free verse, in his plays and poems. Shakespeare's subject matter often focused on themes of love, grief, and despair, with an emphasis on the immortality of love and the mortality of man. He explored the virtues and vices of affection, and the toil and grace of love. Shakespeare's works are also known for their lyrical qualities, with the use of poetic devices such as alliteration, repetition, and caesura. He invented and popularized many literary terms and verse forms that are still used today, such as the Shakespearean sonnet and the iambic tetrameter. Shakespeare's love poems are some of his most famous works, including Venus and Adonis and the sonnet-sequence addressed to his "dark lady" mistress. His plays, such as The Tempest and Hamlet, are also known for their poetic language and narrative structure. Shakespeare's impact on English literature and culture is immeasurable, and his legacy continues to inspire and delight readers and audiences around the globe.

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FAQs

Who is Mr. W.H in Shakepeare's sonnets?

Mr. W.H. is a mysterious figure mentioned in the dedication of Shakespeare's sonnets. The dedication reads: "To the onlie begetter of these insuing sonnets Mr. W.H. all happinesse and that eternitie promised by our ever-living poet wisheth the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth."

Scholars have long debated the identity of Mr. W.H., but there is no definitive answer. Some believe that W.H. may have been Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton, to whom Shakespeare dedicated his poem "Venus and Adonis" in 1593. Others have suggested that W.H. could have been William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, who was also a patron of Shakespeare's work.

Despite much speculation, the true identity of Mr. W.H. remains a mystery, and we may never know for certain who Shakespeare had in mind when he addressed his sonnets to this enigmatic figure.

Why is sonnet 116 so famous?

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare is famous for its timeless message about the true nature of love. The poem asserts that true love is constant and unchanging, even in the face of obstacles and the passing of time. It emphasizes the importance of fidelity and steadfastness in love, suggesting that genuine affection is an "ever-fixed mark" that can weather any storm. The sonnet's eloquent language, use of poetic devices, and adherence to the Shakespearean sonnet form also contribute to its enduring popularity.

what is the problem in sonnet 116?

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare does not explicitly present a problem or conflict to be resolved. Rather, the poem seeks to define and explore the nature of true love by contrasting it with false or inconstant love. The poem argues that true love is unchanging and steadfast, even in the face of obstacles and the passage of time

what is sonnet 116 about?

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare is about the nature of true love. The poem argues that genuine love is constant and unchanging, even in the face of adversity and the passing of time. It suggests that true love is not altered by external circumstances or by the actions of those who profess to love, but remains steadfast and true.

Is sonnet 116 gay?

While Sonnet 116 is addressed to "Mr. W.H.," the identity of the intended recipient of the poem is not definitively known. There has been speculation among scholars that the "W.H." mentioned in the poem may have been a real person who was the subject of Shakespeare's affection, but there is no clear evidence that the poem is explicitly about same-sex love. Furthermore, it is important to note that the concept of sexual orientation as we understand it today did not exist in Shakespeare's time, and the language and social norms of the time may have influenced how love and affection were expressed and understood. Ultimately, the interpretation of Sonnet 116 as a gay love poem is a matter of individual interpretation, and there is no conclusive evidence to support or refute this interpretation.

Sonnet 116 how is time personified in this poem?

In Sonnet 116, time is personified as a force that can cause changes and decay in the physical world, but cannot alter the essential nature of true love. The poem states that "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle's compass come." Here, time is personified as a reaper with a sickle, which is a traditional symbol of the passage of time and the inevitability of death. The sickle is said to "come" within the compass of rosy lips and cheeks, suggesting that time is capable of causing physical changes and decay in the body. However, the poem argues that true love is immune to the effects of time, and will "bear it out even to the edge of doom." Thus, time is personified as a powerful force that cannot affect the true nature of love, but can only change its external appearance.

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