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A (Hyper)Text of Sonnet 116

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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 .

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"The marriage of true minds" differs from physical union, or the marriage of the body over which states can impose regulations. Go back to line 1, but be sure to click on "impediments" in line 2 for two scenarios that demonstrate legal impediments to physical marriage. This metaphor concerns a spiritual union between what are sometimes called "soulmates." These are companions whose interests and other facets of their lives are so parallel that they form a bond of mutual appreciation and tolerance.

"His" means "Time's"--Personifying time makes it a tangible enemy that can be scorned.

(Back to line 11.)


"bears it out" = endures, stays constant and faithful

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"this": The pronoun, "this," apparently stands for the theme of lines 1-12, the idea that love endures no matter what--at least in the union (or true love) between two minds.

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"writ": This word is an archaic form of the word "written." That means it used to be more widely used, but it died out of the English language since Shakespeare's time.

The speaker, whom we might associate with Shakespeare himself, (click on "A Brief History of the Sonnet," above these notes [or a few inches below the poem]) suggests that if he's wrong about love, then everything he's ever written (about love) is false.


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"loved": Ok, so it doesn't really rhyme with "proved"--at least not anymore. Maybe Shakespeare's vowel sounds were closer to those of modern Scottish and "loved" sounded more like /looved/ and was closer to rhyming with "proved." Or maybe it's just a sight rhyme.

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