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Sonnet 116
Learning Objective:
•To understand the language & imagery of Sonnet 116.
• This sonnet attempts to define love, by
telling both what it is and is not.
Quatrain 1
• In the first quatrain, the speaker says that
love—”the marriage of true minds”—is
perfect and unchanging; it does not “admit
impediments,” and it does not change
when it find changes in the loved one.
Quatrain 2
• The speaker tells what love is through a
metaphor: a guiding star to lost ships
(“wand’ring barks”) that is not susceptible
to storms (it “looks on tempests and is
never shaken”).
Quatrain 3
• The speaker again describes what love is
not: it is not susceptible to time. Though
beauty fades in time as rosy lips and
cheeks come within “his bending sickle’s
compass,” love does not change with
hours and weeks: instead, it “bears it out
ev’n to the edge of doom.”
The Couplet
• In the couplet, the speaker attests to his
certainty that love is as he says: if his
statements can be proved to be error, he
declares, he must never have written a
word, and no man can ever have been in
• Marriage
• Navigation: love as a guiding star.
• Time / age / death
Find a quote to
go with each of
these symbols!
Death & Time
• The macabre image of the
Grim Reaper was quite familiar
to Shakespeare’s Elizabethan
readers. It became an icon of
European culture in the
medieval period, in which
death was a horrifyingly
present part of everyday life
(due to the devastating impact
of the Black Plague for that).
• In this poem, Love is the one
thing that can resist the power
of death.
Now summarise the
poem in 8 images
and quotations