Breath of Clarity

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Western Wind explained that the mind naturally learns by association. Shakespeare attempts to define love by making comparisons and contrasts to its personified form. Objectifying love makes it easier to describe because it allows for people to associate it to familiar ideas. The poem starts with the phrase “Let me,” implying that it is uncustomary to take the following perspective on love. The author feels the need to ask permission from the audience to proceed, and this is because there is this pressure to talk about “impediments,” which essentially represent inhibitors of love. When Shakespeare says that he intends not to “admit” the impediments, it suggests that the speaker is fighting the mainstream tendency to talk about the flaws of love.

Shakespeare wants to focus on the beauty on the basis of distinguishing the difference between alteration and adjustment. This is evident because the words “alters” and “bends” are repeated in two different sections of the piece. Shakespeare’s purpose is to explain that the existence of love never changes. Rather, it is an “ever fix-ed mark” that must “bend” in order to last. Shakespeare conveys that love between two people with healthy, “true minds”, is a constant work in progress. The umlaut over the “e” is essential because it explains that love is never completely done being fixed. It is always in the process of growing to be more healthy and stronger. Shakespeare additionally explains in the first line that true love is fueled by a mental connection that is more mature than emotional drive. The quality love that Shakespeare articulates is a stable relationship that bends (implying that difficulty arises), but “is never shaken” to a serious degree.

Love is objectified and personified in the description of what it is and what love is not. The line “it is the star to every wand’ring bark” conveys the supportive quality of love that frees individuals from confusion. The apostrophe in the word “wand’ring” suggests that the call from a lover is a magical and beautiful sound because of the person’s willingness to admit a need for support (the “bark”). Shakespeare proceeds to say that its worth is “unknown”. At first, this is slightly unsettling to the audience because love is extremely valuable and worth a lot. However, the next line “although his height be taken,” acknowledges that its worth is high and that “unknown” just meant that it couldn’t be quantified. The two apostrophes in the following line are essential because they indicate possession, which suggests a presence or lack of control. The term “fool” represents inferiority. So, saying that love is not time’s fool signifies that love cannot be controlled by time and is too intense to be altered in a short amount of time. It contributes to the main purpose of the poem that love evolves gradually. The measurements of time are too “brief” for love to alter in that amount of time. The word “bears” suggests that love is too strong to succumb to alteration in a brief amount of time. The “bending” of the “compass” suggests that there is always a way to mend love because there are an infinite number of angles to approach relationship struggles from multiple directions.

This is why Shakespeare ends the poem explaining that his theory cannot be proved wrong with “true minds” (real connection based on more than emotional impulse and attraction). Shakespeare explains that those who truly loved and reached the “edge of doom” with their partner don’t see alteration as an option. Those who felt true love want to bend it in order to strengthen it and maximize its potential. Their love was “never shaken” because it was constantly being mended and they work on fixing it. Living the benefits of that shows that no man who ever loved truly would disagree.