What is love? “Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare seeks to tell the reader exactly what it is. Or better yet, what it is not. Love is not just word, but more of a spiritual feeling. It cannot be changed once it is set in motion. This poem reminds the reader of the true importance of love. Shakespeare clearly portrays that love is one of the strongest things that exist today because it cannot be altered.
Love has been known to have many different meanings. The first definition on dictionary.com states that love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Shakespeare seems to think that love is slightly more important than just a feeling. “Whose worth unknown, although his height be taken” (8) is a clear example of just that. Love cannot be measured or calculated. There is much symbolism involved with this poem. When the poem speaks of a star, it is talking about the North Star. This star has been used for decades as the star that leads traveling wanderers. While the distance of the star can be calculated by science and many types of measurements, its value can never be set. This is directly relating to love, because much like the star, love cannot have a set value.
Love has been known to also be a spiritual emotion. As Lukas states in his article Theological Implications in Sonnet 116, “God-given love is also suggested by the religious context within which the sonnet is placed.” (295).The first lines of the poem start off talking about the “marriage of true minds” (1). This is obviously speaking of a religious ceremony. Shakespeare is using this passage to bring across the point that human love is something that goes beyond words. It goes into a whole different realm of feeling and emotion.
This sonnet is just a perfect example of the vastness of love. “Love is not love which alters, when it alteration finds” (2) shows this at its core. Nothing can bend or change love in any way. Although some people believe in falling out of love, it is not something that I feel can be done. Being in love is something so sincere, so perfect and imperfect at the same time. Things come along in life that try to take the importance of love away from us, but Shakespeare was trying to portray the simple fact that this cannot be done. When love is true, when it is real and deep, it cannot be altered. Shakespeare uses similes a lot throughout this sonnet to show this fact. “Love’s not time’s fool” (12) is an example of this. Love is not, and can never be, at the mercy of time. When in love, you can feel as if a second is actually days and months, because being with the one you love is as if you were standing still in time. It feels as if the world is moving around you, but the only thing that matters is your love. This may seem corny to many people, but to those who have felt love, it is the most amazing thing that exists. This is what Shakespeare was trying to portray. Love is something that is so great and powerful, that it cannot be measured.
So many things in life are taken from us daily. Material things come and go from one day to the next. With this sonnet, Shakespeare tries to show that the only constant thing in life, the only thing that cannot be taken from us, is love. He calls it an “ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” This is true about love. Once love has set itself into the soul, it will not be moved. Love laughs in the face of anything that opposes it. If for some reason “love” is taken, then it was never there to begin with. It was false. There are wars all around the world. People fighting to keep what is truly there. Would you say that love is one of those things? I believe that Shakespeare would. There is a constant war against love. There will always be something in the way of finding that true happiness. Love “bears it out even to the edge of doom” (12). Here Shakespeare is saying that it does not matter what may come in this life. It does not matter what obstacles cross our paths when true love is present, because it cannot be taken from us. So many material things in this life come and go with time. With time, value also fades. Love is not included in either of these statements. Love is not material, therefore cannot be taken from you as if by force. It also has no value. It is not value-less in the sense that it is worth nothing. On the contrary, it has so much value that it can never be measured in any way. This sonnet tells of all these things. Shakespeare is so sure of what he writes, that he ends his sonnet saying “if this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved” (14). The confidence that he shows in his beliefs makes the statements that much stronger. If he is proven wrong, he says he has never really written, and no man ever really loved. This proves that not only did he believe it, but he must have lived it as well. It seems impossible that a man, who spoke so eloquently about love, and with such passion, could have gone through life without feeling the immensity of it himself. Love is the greatest thing that exists today. Shakespeare knew it in his time, and it is something very well known today. Throughout the centuries, it is one of the only things that has remained a constant in society and personal lives. It cannot be altered, and if it was somewhat altered, then it was never true to begin with.