Sonnet 116 is considered one of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets about love. The poem describes the everlasting, immovable, and devoted nature of true love despite time and circumstance. The scope of true love in this sonnet is described as perpetuating and grandiose, a cornerstone to the existence of humanity. Shakespeare emphasizes the nature of true love as a reciprocal feeling that portrays commitment and stability, unable to be shifted or drawn away by external influences.
Shakespeare begins the sonnet with the lines “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments” (Shakespeare 1-2). It is an emphasis that the nature of true love is mutual, a connection between like-minded individuals that love each other deeply. This allows them to be together. He goes on to say that love is not loving if it changes when the other person changes or disappears if the person is gone. Shakespeare is suggesting both that love is everlasting in nature and that its scope is to love the person for who they are. Implying that people constantly change, sometimes for better or worse, but love perpetuates even through the darkest times. This theme is highlighted in the next lines of “O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken;” (Shakespeare 5-6).
Building on the previous theme, Shakespeare encompasses love as being a stable constant no matter the circumstance. He calls it a “star to every wandering bark,” essentially a guiding light when one of the lovers is seemingly lost (Shakespeare 7). Love is an ever-fixed point of bliss and happiness, and the highest euphoric state that each person strives towards. It is remote at times, but nevertheless, immovable and does not disappear or erode if it is actually true love. Shakespeare emphasizes that such love is simply invaluable, but how it is shown to the other person can change.
In the third quatrain, Shakespeare introduces the concept of time, immediately making a statement that “Love’s not Time’s fool” (Shakespeare 9). This is an important theme in the scope of love, that time, probably the biggest challenge in love, does not change anything. Love is endless, lasting “even to the edge of doom” (Shakespeare 12). The poet acknowledges that time will take away natural beauty and the concept of time stretches out beyond human comprehension at times. However, he wholeheartedly believes in the perpetuating and everlasting nature of true love.
The couplet, in the end, is a powerful proposition by Shakespeare, highlighting that if he is wrong about all this and someone can prove it, then he has never written, and no man ever loved (Shakespeare 14). The poet is exceedingly confident in his descriptions of the scope of love that he is metaphorically stating his career and own feelings on that premise. It is important to note the structure of the sonnet, which in the four quatrains twice follows the same patterns of describing what love should not be and then placing an emphasis on what it truly is. Shakespeare consistently brings up the theme throughout the sonnet that love does not change, neither with the change of the other person, hardships, or time. That is the most important concept in his description of true love, its immovability, and by consequence – stability, support, and its perpetuating nature.
Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds.” Poetry Foundation, Web.