Sonnet 116 is clearly one of the many poems that take part of Shakespeare’s ‘Quarto’1. From the name, we can therefore not deduce any important information’s that could be useful in analyzing it, as it was simply given a number as a title. Yet through first impressions we can immediately notice that all rhyming and iambic pentameter specifications; quatrains, couplets and syllables, are followed and respected to perfection and simplicity.
Reading through the beautiful lines of this poem, one immediately notices the ease of the words chosen to express the thoughts of the speaker. What the speaker is saying are his thoughts about love. What love is and what love is not. Reading and rereading, I have to be sincere and say that I agree with what Shakespeare wrote 500 years ago.
He divides his thoughts within the quatrains and couplets of his sonnet. In the first quatrain he talks about what love is not; in the second, what love is; and in the third, he talks again about what love is not.
The opening line of the first quatrain includes, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / admit impediments.” here he introduces the fact that he believes that true love is perfect and unchangeable no matter the situation encountered.
With the use of an enjambment, there being no form of pause between lines, the poet is capable of grabbing peoples attention and making them immediately aware of what the recurring theme actually is; love being solid despite everything.
Another poetic technique used in this first quatrain is alliteration; being when there is a repetition of consonants in words near each other. This can be found in line 1 and 3, with the repetition of “T’s”. This could then be further developed and said to be a consonance if looking at the first and second quatrains because of the various repetitions of “T’s” at the end of several words.
In “love is not love” we have the presence of euphony where we hear the repetition of the vowels “o” creating a phonetic technique.
In the second quatrain, we then encounter a fairly easy metaphor to notice which compares the sea, to life. “… an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken…” A person goes through life, just like a ship does through sea. With ‘tempests’ the speaker refers to obstacles encountered on the way, but as bad weather comes and go’s, so do difficulties. As in ‘ever-fixed mark’ we have to do with a light house, which is fixed and remains in place; just like love. As light houses guide ships through the sea, love guides people through life; the speaker in fact proposes to find your way to navigate through the stars and you will encounter your will, “It is the star to every wandering bark”.
In line 7 we can also find assonance, the repetition of a vowel; in this case the repetition of “A’s” which grab people’s attention.
Imagery is also very frequent in this poem, “…worth’s unknown, although this height be taken.” Like star’s, love is something we can touch and feel; but the fact that one can use it does not mean that you can quantify it. The true value of love is unknown and cannot be calculated the same way height could be. We simply have to live it day by day and be ready to live new experiences.
Love really does take an important role in people’s lives, and really does help them to navigate through the different stages of growth and development. What Shakespeare is trying to explain is that no matter what, we should always feel to have affection, and we should learn to overcome any difficulties as a ‘tempest’, always goes away sooner or later.
In the third quatrain we go through a series of images and personifications that allow us to reflect much upon what is said to us. “Love’s not Time’s fool…” love is not compassionate about time, and even though beauty changes; love is not fooled and does not change. “…though rosy lips and cheeks”, time is personified into a face and we get the impression that it can be trapped and conquered, as can be a beautiful face with rosy lips.
“…bending sickles compass…” with a sickle being a menacing harvesting tool, we can deduce once again that physical beauty can vanish. Giving the imagery of a menacing tool like a ‘sickle’, we get a very close connection towards death.
Love cannot absolutely be measured in “…brief hours and weeks”, it is eternal. Going on, “…bears it out even to the edge of doom.” To doom it refers to doom’s day in which the world will end. The speaker declared that love will last until then end, no matter what.
In the final couplet, the speaker gives us the idea of truth in his words. He says that if his statements are proved wrong, he would pronounce to not have written a word. He does also know that, it is impossible to have never loved, so this ensures you that what Shakespeare claims to be his view of love, is actually entirely true.