Shakespeare’s sonnets are a remarkable collection of poems and their essential theme is that of love.
This particular sonnet stresses the constancy of true love: It is not fickle or changing, but is constant and true:
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 wand’ring 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. – Sonnet 116
Love which is here today but gone tomorrow is not real. There is a difference between like and love. Our likes and dislikes tend to change rather quickly. Love, as spoken of in the sonnet, is constant. It does not alter when it meets some problem or difficulty.
Notes based on Arden edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets:
|1. Let me not||May I never; I hope that I shall not|
|2. Admit impediments||Allow anything to come between|
|3. Love is not love||Apparent love is not love which alters etc.|
|4. Bends||Turns, deviates|
|5. Ever-fixed mark||A permanent beacon or signal for shipping|
|6. Star||Guiding star; most readily identified with the Pole Star|
|7. Wand’ring bark||Lost ship|
|8. Whose worth’s unknown||The value of this ever-fixed star is beyond human measurement|
|9. Time’s fool||Something mocked by Time, because Time has power over it|
|10. Though rosy lips and cheeks||Physical beauty|
|11. Within his bending sickle’s compass come||Falls within the range of time’s sickle (an instrument which cuts down)|
|13. Bears it out||Sustains without giving way, ensures|
|14. Edge of doom||First onset of Doomsday, until the end of time|
|15. Upon me prov’d||Proved against me|
We hope you have enjoyed the above excerpt. If you are interested in reading further sonnets and other works from William Shakespeare many of them are generously published online by www.shakespeare-online.com