What Is Shakespeare’s Definition of Love: Sonnet 116
In Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare attempts to define love, in his eyes appearing, as an unwavering union between two people. Similarly, in his other sonnets, the poet addresses the question of love with utmost romanticism and passion. Shakespeare uses metaphors and other literary devices to convey his ideas to his readers. The poem’s structure is Elizabethan, with 14 lines divided into three segments of four lines, ending with a couplet of lines, emphasizing the message at the end of the poem. The sentiment conveyed by the poem is the belief in the pure form of love that withstands all obstacles and difficulties and is preserved by the two minds in love.
Marriage of true minds
The poem begins with a significant statement implying that true love is based on the inner essences and not the external looks of the lovers. In the very first line, he refers to the romantic union between two people as “the marriage of true minds” (Shakespeare 1). The poet’s insisting on love being deeper than looks is supported later in the poem. He distinguishes between a love that is “not Time’s fool” and “rosy lips and cheeks” that, on the other hand, are affected by “his bending sickle” (Shakespeare, lines 9-10). By comparing the shallow and superficial values of external beauty to true love as he understands it, Shakespeare conveys the superiority of the latter. The poet effectively uses metaphors to create vivacious images in the readers’ minds.
Furthermore, the poet uses personification to explain the complex concepts of time and love. Throughout the poem, he adds human qualities to these concepts, allowing them to “look on tempests” and referring to time as a male character (Shakespeare 6). By creating such images, he facilitates readers’ sympathy for love as the fight with time becomes more vivid and emotional.
Shakespeare continues with the description of true love as one that is unwavering and resilient to all obstacles. He uses root repetition such as “alters when it alteration finds” and “the remover to remove.” By using repetition in such a way, he adds to the image of love as unwavering, as although the words he uses change their essence, or root, they remain the same. In the same matter, love and lovers change, and yet their essences do not. Furthermore, he uses other types of repetition to further strengthen his message, such as echoing “love alters not” at the end of the poem to emphasize the significance of this quality (Shakespeare 11). The placement of the negation at the end of the noun group highlights it as the lesson to the taken away, adding to the list of things that love is or is not, according to the poet.
Passion towards the subject of the poem
The passion for the subject, which is typical for Shakespeare’s sonnets, emphasizes the message. The last line couplet stresses the belief and faith that Shakespeare puts in his view of love, in which he believes so strongly that he is willing to renounce his writing otherwise. Furthermore, he continues to state that if he is wrong, “no man ever lov’d,” suggesting that if the kind of love he describes does not exist, then no love exists at all (Shakespeare 14). The dramaticism of the statement and the message overall creates a powerful effect on the readers that invites thoughtfulness on the subject and self-reflection.
Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 116.” 1609. Poetry Foundation, Web.