VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature                                        page 18 of 20
English 112 (English Composition II)

Theme in Sonnet 116

Your Statement of a Theme for Sonnet 116

typehand.gif (8738 bytes)Directions: Re-open your word processor to type your own idea of the "theme" of Sonnet 116, its point, its main idea. Try getting across the same idea as the sonnet with the same attitude as you see in the sonnet; use one or two sentences. The sonnet is printed below on the left.

Compare your answer to the considerations printed below, right.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alterations finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

Oh no! It is an ever fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

It is the star to every wandering bark,

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

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 proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

If you've studied this poem step by step, especially the pages on text and paraphrase, you might think it an understatement to say that the theme of this poem is some idea like, "Real love endures despite everything."

Of course, this is too simple. The beginning of the poem tells what love is not. So it denies a short-sighted or everyday image of love. Instead, the speaker--and the poet who invented this speaker--put forth an ideal of love, rock-steady, as constant as the stars, outlasting time. Perhaps a more probable theme for this poem is that this ideal love is the only one really worth pursuing because it is solid.

So the theme statement for a work of art might be one sentence, but it must be the kind of statement that echoes the major implications of the work. It must capture the image of life that inspired the work.

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