The poem, Sonnet 116 by Shakespeare is one of the most well-known of his sonnets due to its strong justification of true love. This sonnet contains a very simple structure with each and every quatrain trying to explain what love is or what it is not. The final couplet reinforces the poet’s utterances by inserting his own worth on the line. From the Sonnet we get the representation of the ideal of romantic love. We see that it never changes; does not fade; it surpasses death and confesses no flaw. On the contrary, the purpose of this argumentative text is to show that love does not exist as captured by Shakespeare in his poem.
This first quatrain declares that true love is unchanging and immortal: that love does not change on its own and it does not allow itself to be altered even when it meets changes in the loved one. However, this is not the case always as love of this nature rarely exists. People claim that they love others but when they encounter a change in the person they claim to love; they may change their perception and ‘stop’ loving them and look for other people they can love. Therefore we can see that from the sonnet, the immortality and the constant nature of love is an abstract feature that does not apply in the real world. The Shakespearean kind of love can only be found in stories, poems and other works of art but cannot apply to people as they are prone to shifting their affections and they do not act as predicted in the first quatrain when rejected.
From the sonnet, the dependability and constancy of true love is exhibited. Through a series of metaphors and seafaring vocabulary, love is termed as an “ever-fixed mark” which refers to a sea mark that sea-farers can use to mark their course. It is likened to the North Star which is ever present but its nature is unknown. Due to human nature, this kind of love is rarely present. The human nature treats love as an exchange whereby one should be loved so that they can love back; this is in the case for romantic love. Without this reciprocation, the dependability and the constancy attributed to love fades and people substitutes the love they have for one person to the other who suits their needs. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the ideals of Shakespeare on the notion of true and romantic love are not applicable and cannot be found in real life as captured in the poem. Man is prone to change and cannot exist in one state therefore challenging the notion of constancy and dependability of love.
The sonnet presents the idea of love’s undying spirit which prevails against the “bending sickle” of Time. This phrase says that love cannot be dimmed by the passing of time and if it is true, the ravaging nature of time cannot affect it. The sonnet goes further to proclaim that “hours and weeks” are “brief” as contrasted to love’s permanence. This Shakespearean proclamation of love is very appealing but it does not exist. Love fades over time. People may be in love at one instant and after a while this love may fade. This means that love bends to the “bending sickle” of time and its longevity is not permanent. The permanence of love can disputed; where some couples may marry and after several years, they find that the love they had for each other is gone and they decide to divorce. This also applies to cases where love is not reciprocated. If there is no reciprocation of love by the other party, it cannot last long for many people and they opt to find other partners that can show them the love that they deserve.
Shakespeare writes “looks on tempests and is never shaken” meaning that love can face all the trials of the world and does not fail or falter; that it is not susceptible to the storms of life (Shakespeare). Romantic love, I believe, does not exhibit this quality. Not many people still exhibit their love to the people they claimed to have loved earlier if they are faced with challenges like financial ruin. These challenges often end up souring the love that was present. This shows that the kind of love Shakespeare was standing for is for the romantics who are out of touch with reality.
From the poem one can also gleam some evidence on the lack of merit for the poets claims about love. It can be seen that the poet does not claim to have been loved by anybody in the measures that he had set in the sonnet. His love for the other person seems to be one-sided. It is therefore prudent to assume that this kind of love only exists in literature and not in the real world. There is no reciprocation of the love he is talking about. It can be said that he is just obsessed with the other person and their idea of what they could have been had they met in real life.
In conclusion, he writes that if one disputed his claims of love; he ‘never writ, nor no man ever loved’ (Shakespeare). Therefore, I dispute his claim of love and thereby nullifying his work as per his phrase quoted above. No man has ever loved and this type of love has never existed.
- Shakespeare, William. Sonnet #116. Project Gutenberg, 2004. Print.