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When one thinks of sonnets, one often thinks of the many fine sonnets of William Shakespeare, lines from many of which are well-known by people who don't necessarily know that the author was Shakespeare or which sonnet, exactly, they mean. For instance, there's "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" (18) or "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" (130) or "My love is as a fever, longing still" (147). Today's sonnet is one of my favorites, not just for the sentiment, but because the iambic pentameter of it isn't quite as pronounced, and its first line doesn't tidily end on the line break, but wraps into the second line: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ admit impediments. When spoken aloud, it sounds much more like natural speech than a rhyme-y, sing-songy poem, and is, in that way, quite modern. (See discussion, below.)

Did I mention that it's also swoonily romantic? Because it is.

Sonnet 116
by William Shakespeare

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-fixèd 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.

Analysis and discussion

This particular Shakespearean sonnet shows the Bard at his finest. While it's written in iambic pentameter like the others, and the rhyme scheme is the same as other Shakespearean sonnets (ABABCDCDEFEFGG), this one makes quite a lot of use of enjambment, a technique where one is expected not to pause or stop at the end of each line, but only where punctuation exists. Thus, the first part of the poem when recited aloud would read as follows:

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-fixèd mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken;

The entire poem, start to finish, is keen on making the point that love is constant as the North Star (the star by which "wandering barks" or boats guide themselves), and that it withstands time and testing. True to Shakespearian sonnet form, the first eight lines set the situation: love is constant. The turn comes in the ninth line, when Shakespeare starts to discuss the fact that love is not affected by time in particular. And the final couplet turns the poem again, becoming personal: I love you, it says, and will love you always.

There's a lovely bit of analysis of this poem woven into the ShakespeaRe-Told version of Much Ado About Nothing starring Damian Lewis (RAWR!) as Benedick and Sarah Parrish as Beatrice. The poem itself starts at about 2:30 into this clip:

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
First off, I love your icon. =)
I love Sonnet 116! I think it is so beautiful and definitely romantic.
And that clip is wonderful!
Apr. 3rd, 2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed the post. What a lovely icon you have!
Apr. 4th, 2013 11:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It was made by elegant_pics.
Apr. 4th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
Wasn't it also read in the Sense and Sensibility film that Emma Thompson adapted?
Apr. 4th, 2013 03:27 pm (UTC)
Yes - it's the one that Willoughby and Marianne bond over after she sprains her ankle and he gives her the small book of sonnets. (Side note: I would love a small, leatherbound volume of Shakespeare's sonnets like that. But I digress.) I believe she quotes it again in part whilst standing about in the rain, prior to her collapse and Colonel Brandon's dashing rescue.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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