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The Renaissance Poetry by Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 like the rest of his sonnets, the main theme is love. Throughout the quatrains he goes on to define love by applying figurative language elements in his writing while each quatrain furthers his recurring theme of true everlasting love.

In quatrain one Shakespeare states “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.”This line magnifies the theme of love by creating impenetrable passion between two hearts. “This kind of love is as far removed from the level of mere sensation as any human activity could be” . In the following lines it states “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.” This sentence enhances the theme of love by revealing that “Even in the worst circumstances where possibly one partner would be unfaithful, the love would never change if it is true love”. And can’t be swayed by metaphysical or temporal things.

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Going hand in hand with quatrain one, quatrain two uses two metaphors to describe love, the first metaphor is “…it is an ever-fixed mark…” This is used to represent the permanence of love and that “love remains the same, steadfast and true” . In the following line “…that looks on tempests and is never shaken…” in comparison with the sentence stated earlier it means that despite the obstacles that are presented to love, true love will weather any storm that stands in its way. The second metaphor used in this quatrain is “It is the star to every wand’ring bark…” We find out that the mark Shakespeare is talking about is the north star because it is “the only one that never changes position in the night sky”(Shmoop Editorial Team). This mark is used as a metaphor to use the star as a guide for love.

In quatrain three Shakespeare changes the image of stars and lost ships to decay and death. The first line “Love’s not Time’s fool” “The poet personifies…Time… as the figure of the Grim Reaper” to give insight to the theme that love is not susceptible to death. However, in the next line “rosy lips and cheeks” is described to appear as physical beauty which is “Within his bending sickle’s compass come” meaning beauty is temporal and will degrade with time. The last two lines of quatrain three revisits the theme of the poem by restating that “love doesn’t change over time. It endures the passing of time…and lasts until ‘the edge of doom’” . Another way to see this quatrain is to look at love itself, not only can love last between two people but “the eternal nature of love” will live forever and be seen centuries from now.

The last two lines of the sonnet is called the couple, these two lines are dramatically written but they are simple. “If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved” Shakespeare closes his sonnet elucidating that if anyone proves what he has said wrong then no man has ever known love or has loved. 

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