365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

284. Sonnet 116

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Shakespeare may be best known for his large body of genius plays, but he proved that he was no less skilled when it came to penning a short poem here and there. His sonnets are numerous and beautiful, allowing scholars’ minds to be even more boggled at his brilliance. One of his best and most popular is Sonnet 116, that which is quoted so frequently at weddings (and in the “Sense and Sensibility” film by Kate Winslet in a particularly heart-wrenching scene, proving once again Shakespeare’s ability to be utterly timeless). The sonnet is as follows:

“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 tempest 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 proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

Shakespeare proves himself once more to be a big old softy when it comes to love, proclaiming that he knows the true nature of love to be an unbending, everlasting devotion no matter what tempests may stand in the way. It is the final two lines, as always with a sonnet, that pack the biggest impact: “If this be error and upon me proved/I never writ, nor no man ever loved.” Shakespeare challenges people to prove him wrong about the nature of true love, and he is so sure about his stance that he believes no one can, in fact, prove him wrong.

This is perhaps Shakespeare’s most genuinely romantic sonnet, and it takes an earnest look at what it truly means to be in love. It is no wonder why it is so often quoted at weddings and in romantic movies. It is one of the sweetest, most sentimental, and most heartfelt of all of Shakespeare’s love sonnets. Whether it truly reflects Shakespeare’s feelings on love or if it is just a poem about what he thinks love ought to be like, it is clear that he holds true love in a very high regard and wishes for his readers to do the same.


Written by Caroline Mincks

July 12, 2010 at 11:45 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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