Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare


First published in 1609, Sonnet 116 is one of William Shakespeare's most famous. The poem generally addresses the nature of true love. Shakespeare's typical use of various figures of speech produces a vivid idea of the permanence and endurance of the "marriage of true minds." In terms of structure, the poem is a typical Shakespearean sonnet, including three quatrains (four-line groupings) and a final rhyming couplet. The rhyme scheme follows the typical pattern for these works: ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth‘s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love‘s not Time‘s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle‘s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me prov‘d,
    I never writ, nor no man ever lov‘d.

Reflection Questions

  1. How do you interpret the first complete line?
  2. How does the contrast between what love is and what love is not interact with the structure of the work? 
  3. What does this poem suggest about growth and obstacles? 
  4. How do you understand the final couplet? (Isn't the very existence of the poem evidence that the claims the poem makes about love are true?)

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