Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, the speaker seems to be conveying the idea that love is unchanging and lasts forever. He says that “Love is not love / Which alters when it alteration finds, / Or bends with the remover to remove” (lines 2-4). Even though the people who are in love might change (alter), or someone might leave the relationship (remove), the feeling of love still remains, and if that feeling goes away, then it was never true love. The references to love as “an ever-fixèd mark” (5) that “is never shaken” (6) also add to the idea that love does not change.

The lines “Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks / Within his bending sickle’s compass come” (9-10) signify that time does not destroy true love, even though time (which is referred to as a “he”) has the power to change people’s appearances as they age, taking away “rosy lips and cheeks.” Similarly, the speaker says that “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom” (11-12). Love doesn’t change as days and weeks go by, but instead lasts until the end of time, “the edge of doom.”

I think the format of this poem as a sonnet also adds to the idea that love is powerful. In just 14 lines, Shakespeare was able to write about the speaker’s multiple viewpoints of what love it and isn’t. He gets right to the point and doesn’t leave anything up for debate, showing the speaker is certain about what love is.

Source: Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

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