Sonnet 116 Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Start Your Free Trial

How does William Shakespeare use poetic devices throughout "Sonnet 116"?

Expert Answers info

Stephen Holliday eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write859 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

Shakespeare's "Sonnet 116," like 115 and 117, discusses the nature of true love in terms of constancy, immutability, and alteration (of the loved one). Shakespeare chiefly uses extended metaphors, allusions, personification, and syntax to explore his theme

The first literary device is, of course, the form of the sonnet itself, the Shakespearean Sonnet—which is written in iambic pentameter and structured with three quatrains, and a couplet , rhyming A-B-A-B, C-D-C-D, E-F-E-F, and G-G. In addition, another very typical element of Shakespeare's poems is his use of syntactical inversion. Usual English...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 1,023 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Bruno Cooke eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseProfessional Writer, Professional Tutor

bookB.A. from Queen Mary, University of London

calendarEducator since 2019

write31 answers

starTop subject is Literature

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mariaosbourn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write18 answers

starTop subject is Literature

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

martyweis | Student

In “Sonnet 116,” William Shakespeare uses a variety of poetic devices to further refine what true love is. While the content of the poem focuses on the strength of true love, the poem’s poetic devices emphasize true love’s illusory nature.

Shakespeare uses enjambment at the end of line 1. Enjambment is a poetic technique in which a line of poetry ends without punctuation. Although it is often natural to read literature one sentence at a time, Shakespeare’s use of enjambment draws attention to the way that the poem’s second line can be read differently in isolation from the rest of the poem.

The second line of the sonnet features another poetic device in the form of a caesura. A caesura produces a split or a break, often near the middle of a line. The result of this caesura is two short imperatives:

            “Admit impediments. Love is not love”

This caesura, combined with the enjambment at the end of the first line, reveals a skepticism about true love: what looks like true love might not be, once it is examined further.

This sense of skepticism is reinforced by Shakespeare’s use of visual rhyme in the sonnet’s concluding couplet.  Visual rhyme—sometimes referred to as sight rhyme or eye rhyme—is a poetic device in which two words look like they would produce a rhyme when they do not. Visual rhyme is produced here by “proved” and “loved.” Given the content of this final couplet, this visual line is ironic, and reminds us that our first impressions—both of love and of poetry—can be misleading.