Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Here is Shakespeare’s famous 116th sonnet, which is a sonnet about love but not a love sonnet. It does not express the poet’s love for a person, but deals with the nature of love itself. You could read it as a kind of check list to see whether you are really in love or just infatuated by some superficial attribute of the person you are attracted to.

Or you can read it as just one more fabulous poem from the master himself…

Sonnet 116

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 proved,

    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

From <http://www.stagemilk.com/best-shakespeare-sonnets/>

So let’s see how Shakespeare defines the nature of true love:

  • It is the coming together of two minds which makes true lover – physical attraction, the coming together of two bodies, has nothing to do with it;
  • Love is consistent, it does not disappear when the loved one changes, it is steadfast, you could say love is not fickle; this notion is repeated four times over, in lines three to eight, each time with a different metaphor. External events, circumstances, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune cannot weaken love, if that is true love;
  • Love does not fade with time, even if time take its toll on health and beauty, love will last from the time of youth to the time of old age.

These are high standards indeed, Shakespeare knows love should be taken seriously and if so can last. The final two lines proclaim the poet’s confidence in his doctrine of love. If someone should prove that his thesis is not the case, then it would be as if all Shakespeare’s words and all human experience of love would be wasted.

Once again, Shakespeare elevates all our humanity, using language which is direct and striking. How on earth did he keep doing this in everything he wrote?

The Poetry Dude

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