Below, you’ll find the poem and part of an analysis of the poem Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare.
Includes a breakdown of the stanzas, an insight into the speaker + voice of the poem, and an exploration of the themes and deeper meanings. This is only a quick overview to help you get to grips with the poem; you can access a full in-depth breakdown of the poem below.
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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.
Impediment – Something that stops something else from working.
Admit – This can mean ‘confess’, but in this case it means ‘allow’.
Tempest – Storm
Remover – Someone who tries to get rid of something.
Writ – Wrote
Don’t let me allow any barriers or obstructions to the marriage of true minds (two people who are purely connected via intellect). Love can’t be called ‘love’ if it changes when something else is changed (true love never changes), and it doesn’t go away if someone tries to remove it. No! It’s a fixed point in the distance that is never affected by storms. It is a star in the distance that allows lost ships to find their way. You can’t measure the value of love, but you can measure its height (it belongs to the heavens).
Time isn’t in charge of love, although rosy lips and cheeks fade with time (the ageing process). Love in contrast doesn’t change with Time’s passing but stays even to the edge of death or destruction. If this is wrong and someone can prove it, then I’m not a writer and no person ever loved.
The speaker has a confident approach in his attitude to love; it seems that other people are more confused or unsure in their interpretation of love, but he is very clear and certain of its definition. He is sure that love is an unwavering, fixed point in the distance that we all aim towards – it is unchanged by time or circumstance, and it guides us in darkness or difficulty. He may also be imitating the confident, unwavering character of love itself – that feeling of idealistic love, where it empowers an individual and makes them feel like it is the most important thing in the world. The subject of love is much debated across time, as well as being deeply explored from many angles and perspectives by critics, artists and writers. Yet, this speaker seems so sure of himself. Perhaps he is trying to convince himself of this idealistic view, or perhaps he has fallen for someone so strongly that he feels the need to express his opinion in this way.
● Change vs Constancy
You can also download this complete analysis of ‘Sonnet 116’ by William Shakespeare by clicking this link.