Sonnet 116 Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English By William Shakespeare


William Shakespeare, an English poet and playwright, wrote “Sonnet 116.” It was most probably written in the first half of 1590 and first published in 1609. The poem goes into great detail about true love and the strength of love. The speaker shares his view that no hardship or passage of time can diminish true love.

About The Poet

Shakespeare was a playwright, poet, and actor from England. He is largely recognized as the greatest playwright and writer of English literature ever. He is frequently referred to as the “Bard of Avon” and England’s national poet.

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.

The speaker claims that nothing can stand between true and sincere lovers in the opening words of  “Sonnet 116”. In the second line, he says “Admit impediments” which refers to any barriers preventing people from getting married. He further says that it is not true love, “Love is not love” which changes as a result of difficult circumstances.

Furthermore, he adds “Or bends with the remover to remove” which means that true love does not crumble when someone attempts to jeopardise the relationship.

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.

The speaker declares that love “is an ever-fixed mark” as it never changes with time and situations, it remains constant throughout. 

The second sentence expresses his faith in love since it “is never shaken” even when the storm is at the bay. 

He uses a metaphor “star to every wand’ring bark” to describe love as a guiding star for lost ships whose “worth’s unknown” although “his height” can be measured. 

Lines 9-14

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.

The speaker brings in the perspective of time and says “Love’s not Time’s fool” which implies love is not bound by time and will last eternally.

Though beauty, “rosy lips and cheeks” will fade over time.

He truly believes that love does not change through “hours and weeks”, but rather endures till the end of time.

Lastly, he challenges “If this be error and upon me prov’d” it is as if he has never written, nor has any man “ever lov’d”.