Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds

Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds


The poem, “Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare, emphasizes the enduring nature of true love. It asserts that genuine love remains steadfast despite external challenges and the passage of time. In this portrayal, love is depicted as an unchanging and constant force that withstands trials and immune to alteration. The poet expresses the belief that true love is unwavering, likening it to a navigational star that guides through life’s storms. Furthermore, the poem asserts that real love doesn’t change over time, even though features like lips and cheeks might be affected by aging. It insists that true love lasts until the very end, defying the limits of time. The poem concludes with a declaration that if these assertions about love are proven wrong, then the speaker has never written, and no one has ever truly loved.


Detailed Summary

First Quatrain (Lines 1-4):

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.

In the first quatrain, William Shakespeare sets the tone by metaphorically framing love as the union of true minds.The poet vehemently rejects the acknowledgment of impediments to this love, asserting that genuine love does not alter when faced with changes in the beloved or bend under the influence of external factors seeking to remove it. This quatrain establishes the central theme of the sonnet – the enduring nature of true love that remains steadfast and unyielding in the face of obstacles and transformations. Shakespeare’s use of ‘marriage‘ as a metaphor underscores the depth and commitment of the intellectual and spiritual connection between two individuals, emphasizing the poet’s belief in the constancy of authentic love.


Second Quatrain (Lines 5-8):

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.

In the second quatrain, the poet continues to expound on the nature of true love. Love is described as a fixed and unchanging point of reference, an “ever-fixed mark”, comparable to a navigational point or a guiding star. This metaphor implies that genuine love serves as a constant and reliable reference point in the tumultuous journey of life. The image of the star looking on “tempests” and remaining unshaken suggests that true love can endure and remain unwavering even in the midst of life’s storms or challenges. The choice of the word “wand’ring bark” metaphorically represents individuals navigating through life’s uncertainties, with love acting as their guiding star. This quatrain reinforces the idea that authentic love provides stability and guidance, serving as an enduring and unshakeable force in the face of life’s trials.


Third Quatrain (Lines 9-12):

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.

In the third quatrain, the poet explores the immortality of true love in the face of temporal changes. The contrast is drawn between the enduring nature of genuine love and the inevitable effects of time on physical beauty. The phrase “rosy lips and cheeks” symbolizes the transient aspects of human appearance that are subject to the passing of time. Despite the fleeting nature of these physical attributes, the poet asserts that true love remains unaffected by the brief and temporal nature of “hours and weeks.” He describes time as having a “bending sickle’s compass,” suggesting that time has the power to affect mortal things, like how a sickle cuts through crops. However, he contrasts this with the idea that love doesn’t change. Even though time affects things like the way we look (described as “rosy lips and cheeks”), real love remains the same. The poet wants us to understand that love can last through everything, even to the very end, despite the changes that time brings. So, it’s like saying true love is timeless and can overcome the limits that time and mortal life place on other things.


Rhymed Couplet (Lines 13-14):

If this be error and upon me prov’d,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

In the concluding rhymed couplet, William Shakespeare presents a confident and resolute declaration about the enduring nature of true love. He challenges that if he is proven wrong in what he has written about love, then he’s ready to admit that he’s never written anything, and no one has ever truly loved. This bold statement serves as a strong conclusion to the sonnet, emphasizing the poet’s unwavering conviction in the constancy of genuine love. Essentially, he is expressing absolute confidence in the timeless quality of true love, suggesting that if this belief is challenged, then the very foundation of his writing and the essence of genuine love itself would be in question.


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