Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare [Semester 6] BA English Notes BBMKU

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare, one of William Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets, the bard explores the timeless nature of true love. With eloquent verses, he delves into the steadfastness and constancy of love, defying the passage of time and the challenges that may come its way. Shakespeare’s masterful use of language and poetic devices makes this sonnet a profound and unforgettable ode to love’s enduring power. Join us as we dive into the heart of this immortal masterpiece.

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-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring 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 prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.

Summary by line

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds”
The speaker begins by expressing his determination not to deny the existence of true love between two genuine souls.

“Admit impediments. Love is not love”
True love does not alter or falter when faced with obstacles or challenges.

“Which alters when it alteration finds,”
It is not susceptible to change when circumstances change.

“Or bends with the remover to remove:”
Nor does it weaken or waver when the beloved is distant or separated.

“O no! it is an ever-fixed mark”
Instead, true love is a constant and unwavering beacon.

“That looks on tempests and is never shaken;”
It remains steadfast even in the face of storms and adversity.

“It is the star to every wandering bark,”
Like a guiding star for lost ships at sea,

“Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.”
Its true value is immeasurable, though its position in the sky can be calculated.

“Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks”
True love is not subject to the passage of time, even though youthful beauty may fade.

“Within his bending sickle’s compass come:”
Time’s scythe may cut down youthful beauty,

“Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,”
But love itself does not change with the passing of time,

“But bears it out even to the edge of doom.”
Rather, it endures until the end of time.

“If this be error and upon me proved,”
If someone can prove that this belief is mistaken,

“I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”
Then the speaker declares that he has never written, and no man has ever truly loved.

Sonnet 116 Complete Summary

Sonnet 116 is a timeless and celebrated poem by William Shakespeare that delves into the nature of true love. The speaker begins by declaring that he will not deny the reality of genuine love between two devoted souls. True love, according to the speaker, remains constant and unchanging, even in the face of challenges and the passage of time.

The poem likens true love to a steadfast beacon that navigates through storms without being shaken. It serves as a guiding star for lost ships, providing direction and stability. The value of true love is immeasurable, transcending the limitations of human understanding.

The sonnet dismisses the notion that love is subject to the whims of time. While physical beauty may fade with age, true love endures, remaining unaltered by the passing hours, weeks, and years. It persists until the very edge of doomsday, defying the transient nature of mortal existence.

The final couplet serves as a powerful affirmation of the speaker’s beliefs. He confidently asserts that if anyone can prove his thoughts about love wrong, then he has never written a word, and no one has ever truly loved.

Overall, Sonnet 116 is a profound exploration of the constancy and permanence of genuine love, exalting it as an unwavering force that stands the test of time and remains an eternal testament to the power of human connection.

Sonnet 116 Complete Critical Appreciation

Sonnet 116 is hailed as one of William Shakespeare’s most profound and enduring works. It belongs to the collection of 154 sonnets attributed to the Bard, published in 1609. This sonnet, like many others in the collection, explores themes of love, beauty, and the passage of time. However, Sonnet 116 stands out for its remarkable portrayal of true love’s timeless nature and its skilful use of poetic devices.

One of the key strengths of Sonnet 116 lies in its powerful and succinct language. Shakespeare’s choice of words is deliberate and impactful, allowing the poem to convey its message with clarity and precision. The opening lines, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments,” immediately draw the reader into the central theme of the poem: the unwavering nature of genuine love. The poet’s refusal to “admit impediments” emphasizes his firm belief in the constancy of true love.

The use of metaphor in the sonnet further enhances its beauty and depth. True love is compared to an “ever-fixed mark” that remains steady and unshaken even in the face of life’s tempests. The image of a guiding star for wandering ships evokes a sense of direction and stability in the tumultuous journey of life.

Moreover, Sonnet 116 exhibits Shakespeare’s mastery of the sonnet form. It adheres to the traditional Shakespearean or English sonnet structure, consisting of three quatrains followed by a concluding rhyming couplet. This well-crafted structure enhances the sonnet’s flow and harmony, contributing to its overall impact.

The sonnet’s exploration of the relationship between love and time is particularly noteworthy. While acknowledging the transient nature of physical beauty, the poem asserts that true love remains unaltered, “bears it out even to the edge of doom.” This juxtaposition of the mutable and the immutable creates a sense of contrast and further emphasizes the enduring nature of genuine love.

Sonnet 116’s closing couplet is a testament to Shakespeare’s wit and assurance in his beliefs. By declaring that if anyone can prove him wrong about love, then he has never written and no one has truly loved, the poet effectively challenges the reader to question their own understanding of love’s constancy.

In conclusion, Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare is a timeless and powerful exploration of true love’s unchanging nature. Through its skilful use of language, metaphor, and structure, the sonnet continues to resonate with readers across generations. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to capture the essence of love, transcending time and remaining a testament to Shakespeare’s unmatched literary genius.


Q1: What is the central theme of Sonnet 116?
A1: The central theme of Sonnet 116 is the constancy and enduring nature of true love. The poem explores the idea that genuine love remains steadfast and unchanging despite the challenges of time and external circumstances.

Q2: How many lines are there in Sonnet 116?
A2: Sonnet 116 consists of 14 lines, following the traditional structure of a Shakespearean or English sonnet.

Q3: What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?
A3: The rhyme scheme of Sonnet 116 is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. It comprises three quatrains, each with alternating end rhymes, followed by a rhymed couplet at the end.

Q4: When was Sonnet 116 written?
A4: Sonnet 116, along with other sonnets by William Shakespeare, was likely composed between 1595 and 1600. The collection of sonnets was first published in 1609.

Q5: What literary devices are used in Sonnet 116?
A5: Shakespeare employs various literary devices in the poem, including metaphor, personification, and repetition. The use of metaphor compares love to an “ever-fixed mark” and a guiding star. Personification is evident in love’s ability to “alter not” and “bears it out even to the edge of doom.” Repetition emphasizes the unchanging nature of love with phrases like “Love is not love.”

Q6: What is the significance of the closing couplet?
A6: The final couplet of Sonnet 116 serves as a powerful affirmation of the poet’s beliefs about love’s constancy. By challenging anyone to disprove his assertions, Shakespeare reinforces the idea that true love is an eternal force that endures beyond doubt.

Q7: How has Sonnet 116 influenced literature and popular culture?
A7: Sonnet 116 has left an indelible mark on literature and popular culture. It remains one of Shakespeare’s most well-known and frequently studied sonnets. Its themes of love’s constancy and enduring power continue to resonate with audiences and have been referenced and quoted in countless poems, novels, films, and songs.

Q8: What are some other notable sonnets by William Shakespeare?
A8: In addition to Sonnet 116, several other sonnets by Shakespeare are celebrated for their literary brilliance. Some notable ones include Sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), Sonnet 29 (“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”), and Sonnet 130 (“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”).

Q9: What is the overall tone of Sonnet 116?
A9: The overall tone of Sonnet 116 is one of conviction, assurance, and praise for the enduring nature of true love. The poet’s language exudes confidence in his beliefs about the constancy of love.

Q10: Why is Sonnet 116 considered a classic?
A10: Sonnet 116 is considered a classic due to its timeless themes, exquisite craftsmanship, and profound insights into the nature of love. Its eloquent expression of enduring love continues to captivate readers and solidify its place as one of the most cherished works in English literature.