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What is the main theme of the sonnet 116?

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coockie | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM via web

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What is the main theme of the sonnet 116?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 29, 2010 at 10:51 AM (Answer #1)

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The main theme of this sonnet, like so many of Shakespeare's sonnets, is love.  In the poem, he is talking about the constancy and permanency of love.

In this sonnet, Shakespeare talks about how love does not change.  He says love does not change depending on the circumstances.  He says it does not change over time.  He says it stays solid like a lighthouse.

He says that he is absolutely sure of these things -- if he is wrong, there has never been love in the world.

There really is not any other theme going on in this poem.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 29, 2010 at 11:22 AM (Answer #2)

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The topic of Sonnet 116 is love.  The poem is a rumination on love, if you will.  Stanza by stanza, here's a paraphrase:

  1. Don't let me consider anything that would get in the way of a marriage between true minds.  Love does not change when its object's appearance or affections change, or if a lover turns or looks elsewhere, or is absent.
  2. Love is like a star that guides a ship, a star that stays steady during great storms.  Love is the star that guides every wandering ship, a star whose value, quality, true nature is unknown even though its measure is taken to determine the location of a ship.
  3. Love is not made a mockery of by time, it is not a fool or court jester.  Time, nor the grim reaper, will bring death to love.  Love lasts until the judgment day.
  4. If my thoughts above are incorrect and it's proven to me, I've never written and no man has ever loved.

Love is as consistent and constant as the star ships use to navigate by.  It doesn't change even when its object stops loving or begins loving someone else, or is absent.  Love lasts until the final judgment.  And if all this isn't true, then the speaker has never written anything, and no man has ever loved.

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