Sonnet 116* -An Analysis


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 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.


By no means I can prove Shakespeare to be wrong when he makes this argument in his sonnet: “If this be error and upon me proved/I never writ, nor no man ever loved” (13-14). Lets begin by analyzing the definition of love. Love is defined as a strong feeling of affection towards someone. So what can we conclude when we read this sonnet? The speaker in a sexist manner defines love between a man and a woman. A vast majority of us would come to think of his definition as sexual love. The reason for this is that our thoughts have been conditioned to think of love as a lustful thing. Shakespeare’s definition of love fits easily into the bonding between a mother and a child. The love between a mother and a child does not alter with anything. It is fixed and it never changes.  Its worth cannot be defined. “Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/within his bending sickle’s compass come” (9-10). None of us is immortal. Time can slowly engulf our ageing bodies but it can’t alter love. A mother will love her child till her last breath even if the child does not value her affection and feelings. Her physical features will change with time but her love for her child will never change. Her love is ever fixed and cannot be shaken with any number of impediments. The last line of the sonnet states that “I never writ, nor no man ever loved.” The word man here refers to both the sexes. The poem was written in a socially and culturally sexist society. Its only recently that the word woman is openly included in writing. Shakespeare doesn’t seem like a feminist sort who would object to using the word man everywhere.

*For more on Shakespeare’s sonnets visit