Uncovering Worth Unknown: The Constancy of Love in Sonnet 116

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Arguably the most famed writer of all time, William Shakespeare became famous for his plays and for his sonnets. These sonnets discuss everything from the importance of children to the troubles of rival poets, and have even been divided into two distinct subgroups—those of the “Fair Youth” and those of the “Dark Lady”—because of the differences between the two. However, a common theme that runs throughout nearly all of them is that of love. Illustrating and exemplifying love, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 provides a classic example of this theme, as Shakespeare both defines love and holds it up as a paragon of all things good. In Sonnet 116, or “Let me not to the marriage of true minds,” Shakespeare uses personification and metaphors to …show more content…
Using the phrase “marriage of true minds” (1) just as the sonnet commences allows the topic of the poem to be introduced quickly into the reader’s mind. Shakespeare uses the common phrase often heard in weddings “to make an explicit equation of love and marriage,” (Livingston) and this allusion, too, gives him another opportunity to support his opinion that marriage ought to be the completion of love, as it stretches for an eternity. His point is further made through his adamant language, “Let me not” (Shakespeare 1). There, “the prevalence of negation suggests that this poem is not a definition, but rather a rebuttal” (Vendler 488), almost as if Shakespeare is defending his views against an opposing opinion. By so strongly introducing the idea that impediments cannot stand in the way of true love, Shakespeare is able to summarize his point conclusively and prove that love is all-encompassing. Shakespeare continues in the rest of the first quatrain to say that love does not change with the passing of time or character. By saying that “love is not love which alters when it alteration finds” (Shakespeare 2-3), he once again shows love as an eternal, unchanging factor and “defines perfect love through negatives: love does not change when other things change” (Gibson 133). Rebutting a statement such as, “persons alter; and when
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