The Shakespearian sonnet (116)

Sonnets are a form of poetry. And although sonnets are not originally English, Shakespeare perfected the English sonnet, and had the honor of calling any English sonnet after his name”Shakespearian sonnets”.
Sonnets are usually 14 line poems. The lines abide to a strict rhyming scheme. And they stick to precise rules for changing the direction of the theme. If you examine the poem hereunder, you’ll see how the last two lines differed in theme although the structure remains constant. I think it’s one of the best and the most amazing sonnets that Shakespeare had ever written:

“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:
O 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.”

In this poem Shakespeare describes true love as the love that does not change as things in life change. He portrays true love as a stable love that does not become less with age or decrease when looks change due to one reason or another. And although the temptations of young age and good looks are so strong surrounding human beings, this should not be a reason for a lover to change towards the ones he/she loves if their love is true. Nor their love should be shaken by desire or any other obstacles in life. And also there is a strong hint that conveys the message that if you are thinking to change your partner, then rest assure that you don’t love him/her as much as you think you do.

The message; if you really love me, you accept me the way I am.

And notice how the theme and the rhyming style change with the last two lines. The strange thing is that he declares in these two lines that this love is only imaginary because it is impossible to exist between human. And he admits under taking an oath that he himself had never truly loved, as if he is referring to his life experiences.
Can you imagine that? A poet who wrote of love, who made a legend of “Romeo and Juliet” never experienced true love?
Is it really true? That true love never exists? I think this is a very deep poem that provokes the mind to wander and think, and may be look around and adjust one’s attitude towards his/her partner if he/she really cares for him/her.

But the question remains; does true love exist? And I don’t mean parental or divine love, because then we’re taking a different perspective all together, right?


15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. McArabian
    Jan 03, 2006 @ 18:09:00

    Hi Ayya 🙂
    Great post, I love reading about people’s appreciation of poetry, especially Renaissance/Elizabethan poetry 😉

    One thing though: It was Sir Thomas Wyatt who introduced the sonnet into English literature and poetry. You’re right though, sonnets were not orignally English, they were Italian. Wyatt translated Petrarch’s sonnets (which is why Italian sonnets are sometimes called Petrarchan sonnets) into English, and then wrote some of his own, though stuck closely to the Petrarchan form (splitting his rhymes and ideas into octaves and sestets rather than the 3 quatrains followed by a couplet that you see in Shakespeare’s sonnets). Wyatt’s friend, Henry Howard (Early of Surrey) modified the sonnet into the familiar form and rhyming scheme that Shakespeare later picked up and became master of.

    If I’m wrong, I’m open for correction; I’m still studying for my Phd exams so I’m not an “expert” yet 😉


  2. AyyA
    Jan 03, 2006 @ 19:37:00

    What I meant in the above post that shakespeare introduced the sonnet of the form (abab cdcd efef gg) as is known for an English sonnet or elizabethan sonnet to the English society and not the petrarchan form that sir thomas wyatt presented, but I didn’t know that Henry Howard was the one who first introduced it. Thanks for the info. You’re better than my online class lecturer. 😉
    Now I’ll have to add an update.


  3. shosho
    Jan 04, 2006 @ 01:04:00

    Brilliant post Ayya!

    And thanks McArabian for the info 🙂


  4. nazzal
    Jan 04, 2006 @ 08:08:00

    It was bitter with thee , though !! 🙂
    but i does exist ..

    thanx Ayya
    quite informative


  5. AyyA
    Jan 04, 2006 @ 10:14:00

    Thank sweet Shosho
    But you did not answer my question; does true love as defined by Shakespeare exist? I mean could you accept your partner the way he is when you first met him? Wouldn’t you try to change his attitude to suit yours?
    I believe we do that all the time without realizing it, don’t we?

    Does it really, I guess I was looking for that type of love all my life, but never found it.


  6. ولاّدة
    Jan 04, 2006 @ 14:34:00

    موضوع شيق استمتعت بقراءته
    الحب الخالص الحقيقي موجود إلا أنه ثابت ثبات ظواهر الكون فكما يتعاقب الليل والنهار تتعاقب حالات الحب والجفاء للشخص ذاته وتعود مجدداً
    حقيقة أن الأرض تدور والفصول تتغير والأطفال يكبرون تجعلنا ننظر للحب الحقيقي بشكل مختلف

    هو أيضاً يكبر وينضج ويتغير ويأخذ منحى مختلف
    السر في الحب والاستقرار من وجهة نظري نقطتين

    لست في مقام يسمح لي بنصح حكيمة مثلك ألتمس من كلماتها الهدوء والراحة

    ولكن تجاربي وتجارب المحيطين جعلتني أشعر ان مشكلة بعض النساء أنهن يعتقدن أن لا احد يستحقهن لأنهن كاملات والكامل الله

    أنا شخصياً أمتن لانني حظيت بعشاق في حياتي…أن أكون عاشقة معشوقة يعني أنني أحيا

    تخيلي لو قررنا أن لا نتنفس لأن الهواء في البلد ملوث ولا يوجد هواء يستحق رئتنا الالماسية
    أو ان لا نأكل لأن ما من طعام يستحق أن يكون في معدتنا الذهبية
    أو أن لا ننجب لأن لا يوجد طفل يستحق أمومتي
    أن أأكل طعام فاسد يوماً ما لا يعني ان أمتنع تماماً
    أعرف من كتاباتك أيتها الصديقة أن تجاربك لم تكن موفقة ولكن صدقيني
    هناك شخص في هذا العالم …قد يكون أقرب مما تتخيلين…أوضح مما تتصورين يستحق رباب لا لأنه الأذكى ولا الأجمل ولا الأقوى ولا ولا ولا..لانه يحبك أكثر وبس

    حين تجدين هذا الشخص …بالله عليكِ أخبريني لأنني بانتظار هذا الخبر الجميل


  7. shosho
    Jan 04, 2006 @ 16:05:00

    Wallah rabrooba if his atittude involves slapping and beating me then I will send him to the guillotine, but if it’s minor things here and there I don’t think they would matter much. I’m not one of those people who look into details.

    Generally I accept people as they are, until their start to be harmful or offensive to me, then I would drop the aquaintance all together.

    So I guess my answer to your question ‘does real love as defined by Shakespeare exist’ lies in another sonnet of his,#130 ‘my mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun’

    Happy weekend!


  8. shosho
    Jan 04, 2006 @ 16:06:00

    Typo: My mistress’ eyes


  9. Shurouq
    Jan 05, 2006 @ 04:03:00

    Su’alich sa3b.

    I think yes, true love exists. True relationships don’t.


  10. ولاّدة
    Jan 05, 2006 @ 09:09:00

    عقدتي الموضوع أكثر


  11. AyyA
    Jan 05, 2006 @ 11:32:00

    Very soothing words from a true lover, I hope you always be surrounded with love so that you can give us all hope.
    You reminded me of last Christmas, there was this older lady from South Africa who was visiting my American auntie for the holidays, she is 83 years old and she so happily announced to us that she’s in love with her new boyfriend of 90. After her husband died several years ago she was alone and lonely and just recently she dated again. She said that it doesn’t matter how long you wait, true love eventually finds you, and I thought that was so cute.
    You know, I always fantasized this kind of love you are talking about, like growing old and still be love birds with my partner. And after what I’ve witnessed in Christmas and your reassuring words, I have regained hope. You are right, may be love is closer to me than what I think, may be I’m the one who is wearing the dark glasses that blinds me, may be if I change my attitude things will start to change, thanks sweetheart for the valuable advice.
    Rest assure sweetie when this happens to me, you’ll be the first to know 🙂

    LOL , ya3ni slapping of the lover is not like eating raisons? That was my translation for “tharb el7abeeb mithil akl izebeeb” 🙂
    The problem with me is that I do accept the other as he is, but the other party doesn’t. I mean things do change after one starts a relationship, there are sacrifices from both sides since being single as “ one” we only think “one” but when you are a couple then you think “two” but this should happen naturally without one party imposing himself/herself on the other while he/ she won’t change. Things like when to be home, who to see or not to see, what to wear and not to wear. Where to go and not to go. It becomes frustrating at times. Do I make any sense?

    And since you like “My mistress’ eyes” I will post it especially for you:
    Sonnet (130)
    My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun;
    Coral is far more red than her lip’s red;
    If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun,
    If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head.
    I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
    But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
    In some perfumes there is more delight
    Than the breath with which my mistress reeks.
    I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
    Music hath a far more pleasing sound;
    I grant I never saw a goddess go;
    My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
    And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
    As any she belied with false compare.

    Shakespeare’s mistress is far from perfect, yet no one ever loved her as he did. How romantic, ah, the last four lines, makes me want to say: baba ana abi chithiiiiii.

    Princess is right, 3agadteeha, please elaborate 🙂


  12. Anonymous
    Feb 01, 2007 @ 02:46:00


  13. pussycat
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 17:54:06

    one can find some one to fell in love with ,but for me i can not tell you if there is love as in tales , but i can tell you one thing:”love is the thing that can rescue you from going down”


  14. m7umed 3atiea
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 21:03:25

    thank u girl but i want talk to u can i …؟


  15. Dan
    Jan 28, 2010 @ 16:17:19

    Wikipedia says : One of the best-known sonnet writers is William Shakespeare, who wrote 154 of them (not including those that appear in his plays). A Shakespearean, or English, sonnet consists of 14 lines, each line containing ten syllables and written in iambic pentameter, in which a pattern of an unemphasized syllable followed by an emphasized syllable is repeated five times. The rhyme scheme in a Shakespearean sonnet is a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g; the last two lines are a rhyming couplet.
    After the introduction of the Italian sonnet, English poets began to develop a fully native form. These poets included Sir Philip Sidney, Michael Drayton, Samuel Daniel, the Earl of Surrey’s nephew Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and William Shakespeare. The form is often named after Shakespeare, not because he was the first to write in this form but because he became its most famous practitioner. The form consists of fourteen lines structured as three quatrains and a couplet. The third quatrain generally introduces an unexpected sharp thematic or imagistic “turn” called a volta. In Shakespeare’s sonnets, the couplet usually summarizes the theme of the poem or introduces a fresh new look at the theme. The usual meter is iambic pentameter, which means five iambic feet, i.e., ten-syllable lines in which even-numbered syllables are naturally accented—although there is some accepted metrical flexibility (e.g., lines ending with an extra-syllable feminine rhyme, or a trochee at the beginning of a line rather than an iamb). The usual rhyme scheme is end-rhymed a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.
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