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What View of Love Does Shakespeare Present in Sonnet 116 (Let Me Not)?

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Introduction

What view of love does Shakespeare present in Sonnet 116? In Sonnet 116, Shakespeare presents a personal view of love. He immediately puts himself inside the poem where he says, ?let me not?. The start of the poem, ?admit impediments?, echoes the words of the marriage service, where the priest asks if anyone has reasons against the marriage. The antithesis, or opposites, used throughout (?alters not? ? ?but bears it out?) also suggests the style of the wedding service, ?for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health?. It is as if Shakespeare presents his view of love through playing with the words of the Wedding Service. The reference to marriage at the start makes us wonder whether his lover was planning to get married. ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare shows that what we call ?love? may just be the appearance of love, ?the rosy lips and cheeks? ? or beauty ? which will surely be destroyed by ?Time?. In antithesis to false love, Shakespeare sets up the idea of true love through a developed series of metaphors. First he uses synecdoche to link and contrast ?true minds? with ?rosy lips and cheeks?: two things of very different value. Later, Shakespeare says love is a guiding ?star?, suggesting heaven, eternity, brilliance; that it ?looks on tempests but is never shaken?. The negative image creates a sense of fear, danger, of trial and torment, and that love is the only constant, dependable thing in it. ...read more.

Conclusion

He tells us what love ?is? and what it ?is not?, and uses a large number of absolutes ?ever?, ?every?, and ?never?, which he repeats. This gives a very definite, confident, even stern tone. Shakespeare hammers his message home through anaphora where he tells us ? unusually ? not what love is, but what ?love is not?. Overall, the poem seems more like a criticism of someone who has not been constant. Yet the very negative imagery and language, somehow makes Shakespeare?s vision of true love shine even more brilliant. Shakespeare?s bravado at the end of the poem where he scoffs at the idea that his poem could possibly be ?error? or that error could be ?proved? was ultimately justified. His poem lived far longer than the lover he tells off, and is frequently read at marriage services, over four hundred years later. ...read more.

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