Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare – an analysis


It’s not very telling, is it? It could be about cheese. It could be about the difference between repudiating and turning down an insurance claim (there is one, apparently). It could be about many, many things. I guess we’d better read it then, huh?

Gut Reaction
True love. As in, what is true love. Okay. If it exists… then this it what it really is? Huh. Okay…

What does it all mean?
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
The marriage of true minds. The marriage of true minds… Honest minds? Or minds that think very much alike. To those who are of the same mind, or the same way of thinking, I will not admit that for marriage that there will be obstacles. Or difficulties. So. For those that are completely on the same page about things – whatever things – I won’t point out that there are still things you might disagree on. But that’s okay. That’s good. We can’t always think alike on everything, right?

Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
Ah. Love doesn’t need to change for anyone? No. Love doesn’t change when it finds something to be different from what it initially expected. For example. Say the person of my affection says they love cake, they love it, with exact and equal force to my own affection for cake. But somewhere down the road, they admit. They confess. That actually, as much as they like cake, what they really prefer, is pie. Now, the point here is, if I love this person, my love will not change, despite this life-altering, crushing fact. I will love them anyway. I will love them despite this obvious character flaw (it isn’t a flaw at all. I love pie too. But you see my point.)
And also, with not bending with the remover to remove’, hey. If pie-person stops loving me then I’ll stop loving them back. Right? Wrong! I can’t, I’m already in, skin-deep, and you can’t just turn off loving them like it’s a tap.

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
Love. True love doesn’t change and morph depending on its surroundings. It is a constant.

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It doesn’t fear when there is a storm – literal or otherwise – raging, it doesn’t alter. Through good times and bad, it stays.

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Hmm. I’ll admit to looking this up to confirm my suspicions. The imagery of a star makes me think of true North, of pointing someone home, so the bark in this sense is a ship. This particular ship might not recognise all its best qualities; outwardly, yes, it is a fine specimen of a ship (…) but it cannot see that for itself. So. Love, in this sense, is the guide home, and by home, we mean to our to self, the person we really are when we are at our most comfortable and content.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Age, and time, doesn’t alter love, even though Time steals those attractive features that got our attention in the first place. It’s pretty slick imagery here, isn’t it, the sickle slicing away our attractive features?

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
Love stays, whatever troubles may come. If we have to, we’ll repeat ourselves: it is a constant.

If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
If I’m wrong, then I have never written before (as in, Shakespeare has never written, which is pretty much blasphemy, isn’t it?) and no one has ever truly been in love.

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
Classic sonnet telling the story of why love is the one true constant thing we have in our lives, those of us who are lucky enough to have it.

This tone, it’s certain, isn’t it? Shakespeare is completely sure, that love is, at least to him, this pure, taint-free thing that never wavers no matter what you throw at it.

Suggested rhyme scheme

A classic sonnet! (naturally)

Similes and metaphors
Time – the passage of time – life.
Sickle – aging that strips away our beauty through said passage of time.

Author’s relationship with their subject
The author is clearly in love, or has known love, or feels he has known love and is therefore an authority on the subject.

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
The first line is often suggested to be something along the lines of ‘I can’t find any reasons why two like-minded people shouldn’t be married’.

Signing off
Shakespeare, with this sonnet, talks about love as the purest of things a person can experience. It doesn’t alter with time, or disaster, or change. It isn’t an flexible thing that bends and moves because of anything; but it is flexible enough to incorporate difficulties and never snap.


The cynic in me wants to say, oh yeah? How about loving someone and giving them everything of yourself, and accepting all of them, and things still falling apart? How about then? How about loving someone so much, despite them not loving you back, where does that come into things?

That, I fear, would be my selfish side.

Because love, I guess I still believe, should not falter, or fade, in the face of difficulties. And even more true; even if someone stops loving you back, do you ever really stop loving them? If it’s true love, perhaps not.

I don’t know whether that’s a comforting thought or not.

I also don’t know if there’s any comfort to be had in acknowledging that you love someone enough to let them go and love somebody else.

If I look at it like that, then to love someone is to torture yourself. Which says a lot about my lovelife 🙂

So ignore that bit!

Love. It’s a good thing, a constant that we should all be lucky enough to have in our lives, and you’ll only know it is true love if it doesn’t up and leave the second you have a wiggins.


When I read this I think of the song… I don’t know… Vermillion Part 2 comes to mind.


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