Sonnet 116 Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is an analysis of Shakespeare's "Sonnet 116?"

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Bridgett Sumner, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this sonnet, the speaker expresses his faith in the bond between two people who truly love one another. Lines 2-4 draw a distinction between couples who "admit impediments" to their relationship, allowing distraction or change to enter the relationship and knock it off course, so to speak. To the speaker, it is not love when these obstacles are allowed to interfere.

The speaker goes on to describe what love is; it never wavers. He compares it to a permanent mark that storms cannot affect or a star that is a reliable point of navigation for a ship at sea.

To the speaker, love is not temporary and wouldn't be abandoned because of the ravages of time. The speaker's final assertion in the concluding couplet is that if love is not the way he has exalted it, then no one ever truly loved and he never wrote about it. His certainty is absolute.

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In "Sonnet 116," the speaker begins by stating that two people who are truly in love should not be kept apart, and he goes on to describe the nature of ideal love.

Real love remains strong, he says, even when the object of affection undergoes changes. It is steadfast in the face of life’s challenges (he uses the idea of “tempests” as a metaphor for troubling times). Age can’t dissuade true love, for the lover will always see his or her beloved as they are, regardless of what happens to the body over time. (In the line “Love’s not Time’s fool,” he implies that physical changes are somehow illusory—that the unchanging nature of the soul is what’s important, and that a true lover will always recognize this.)

In the final couplet, the speaker essentially tells us that if his description of love turns out to be wrong, then he’ll take it all back (“I never writ”), but he also affirms that if love doesn’t meet these standards, then no one has ever known true love (“nor no man ever lov’d”).

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