VCCS Litonline

A Paraphrase of Sonnet 116

Directions: The paraphrase to the right of the poem, below, was assembled with the clues that appear when you click on the highlighted words. If you saved or remember your paraphrase typed on the previous page, you should compare yours with the one on this page.

Sonnet 116

1 Let me not to the marriage of true minds

2 Admit impediments . Love is not love

3 Which alters when it alteration finds,

4 Or bends with the remover to remove.

5 Oh no! It is an ever fixed mark

6 That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

7 It is the star to every wandering bark ,

8 Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken .

9 Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

10 Within his bending sickle's compass come.

11 Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

12 But bears it out even to the edge of doom .

13 If this be error and upon me proved,

14 I never writ , nor no man ever loved .

A Paraphrase of SONNET 116

(Lines 1-2) Although legal marriages have barriers to prevent them [like close genes or being currently married], I don't believe in any such barriers to the union between true lovers.

(2-3) Love isn't really love if it changes when we notice our beloved has changed.

(4-5) Love doesn't vary when someone tries to lure us away from our beloved.

(5-6) No way! Love is like a rock, and storms can't undermine it.

(7-8) Love is a constant guide to us as we sail through life, but we can't really see its true value even if we can quantify love somehow.

(9-10) Love doesn't vary with time, even if the glow of youthfulness passes from our beloved's face.

(11-12) Love doesn't vary because of time; it stays constant even until death.

(13-14) If I'm wrong about love, then I never wrote anything [worthwhile since almost all my writings are about love somehow] and nobody has been in love.

For a more subtle interpretation by Linda Gregerson, click here to visit The Atlantic.

For a variation on these interpretations, click here to visit Shakespeare Online.  Scroll down below the paraphrase there to the interpretation, which includes an alternative view of the "mark."  The gushy syllable-counting praise at the end ignores the feminine rhyme (with 11-syllable lines) in lines 6 and 8.

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