Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kevin's Sonnet Analysis: 116

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Sonnet 116 is a good one. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's pretty consistent with LDS doctrine (e.g., love is eternal, it helps us overcome hardships, etc.). I'm fairly sure I've heard it used in talks before, but then again, I've yet to become a Shakespearean expert. But, hey, that's what this class is for, right?  

It can be argued that Sonnet 116 is more or less about  the most ideal form of love. Rather than speaking of marriage as a legal institution, he describes it as the coming together of "true minds." In the poem, Shakespeare considers love to be unchanging (it cannot be altered, bent, or removed). He compares love to a star, an "ever-fix'd mark," that guides wandering ships through the tempests of life. He continues to personify love, claiming it is not subject to time nor death. He concludes by kind of proposing a challenge: if someone can prove him wrong, he'll take it all back/eat his words. Bold, Bill. Very bold.

During my research, I found a bunch of neat stuff. Check out this mind-blowing observation by Tucker Brooke: "[In Sonnet 116] the chief pause in sense is after the twelfth line. Seventy-five per cent of the words are monosyllables; only three contain more syllables than two; none belong in any degree to the vocabulary of 'poetic' diction. There is nothing recondite, exotic, or metaphysical in the thought. There are three run-on lines, one pair of double-endings. There is nothing to remark about the rhyming except the happy blending of open and closed vowels, and of liquids, nasals, and stops; nothing to say about the harmony except to point out how the fluttering accents in the quatrains give place in the couplet to the emphatic march of the almost unrelieved iambic feet. In short, the poet has employed one hundred and ten of the simplest words in the language and the two simplest rhyme-schemes to produce a poem which has about it no strangeness whatever except the strangeness of perfection." (Brooke, p. 234) Dang, that's cool. I attempted to comment on it, but I can't think of anything to add. Well said.

A much more simple observation, made by yours truly, is that the volta is after the eighth line. It begins to shift gears and talk about love in a new way. Similarly, in Sonnet 23, the volta occurs in the ninth line. The change occurs when he goes from talking about how he isn't articulate when expressing the feelings of his heart to basically saying, "Never mind, my writing will reveal how I feel."

Kate Swindlehurst made some awesome observations in her blog post, including how in Sonnets 18 and 31 Shakespeare also seems to discuss this idea of everlasting love, as well as makes references to time and the human body to portray his ideas.

I know that Shakespeare is a true poet. In the name.. oh, wait. Wrong genre.


  1. It's crazy how Shakespeare used such simple language! I had to go back and re-read the sonnet to double check :) Words can be amazing if we employ them well.

  2. Wow, love the Brooke analysis! What a great find. Can you share the name of the book?

    1. This is the reference:
      Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. Tucker Brooke. London: Oxford UP: 1936.

  3. You did some really great research and synthesis, I think this was a really interesting analysis of Shakespeare's views on the constancy of love even beyond death. Nice work!