Introduction to Western Literature, Fall, 1999

Examination on Poetry Section B

Read and analyze the following sonnet by Shakespeare, using the following questions as guidelines.

Sonnet 116

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 wand'ring 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.

1. Paraphrase the poem and tell what the poem is about. What is love, according to the speaker? (Sample )

2. Discuss the significance of its syntax, sentence structures to see if there is any special effect or meaning that is conveyed in the sentence structure.. (Sample)

3. Analyze its structure. Is there any development or reinforcement in the way love is defined? (Sample)

4. Who could be the speaker? Who could be the listener? What could be the situation? Do you think the listener will agree with the speaker? Why or why not? What is the speaker's tone, his/her implied attitude to love in the poem? Playful, sincere? Ironic? Sad? Cheerful?(Sample)

5. What images do you see/hear/smell/touch/taste here in the poem, if there is any?(Sample)

6. Why does the speaker choose to use "marriage" of true minds to describe love? What is the effect of such diction, the word choice? Can you try to find the pattern between changing/unchanging in the words that the speaker uses in the poem? How does the pattern help reinforce the statement that love does not alter?(Sample)

7. Identify the metaphors used in the poem and discuss their significance. What are the effects of the metaphors? What associated meanings do you get from such comparisons?(Sample)

8. What do the last two lines mean and what are their functions?(Sample)

9. According to the poem, what is the most striking feature of love?(Sample)

10. Is the love presented in the poem realistic? Why or why not? Please specific literary texts or examples to support your argument. (Sample)



1.paraphrase one

Love is not love if it changes

Love is never shaken, not even by the fiercest storms

Love is like the stars that are invaluable

Time cannot destroy love

And love exists 'till the end of the world.

If it is not true.

Then no man has and never will have loved.

The poem is about how determined and unchanged

the speaker's love, even when there's a storm or

when time is there to examine it. He refers to love as

stars that hang ever so high in the sky, as an ever-

fixed mark that stands steadily still forever. (Michelle)

paraphrase two

Do not let me love someone who admits impediments.

This love is not true if it alters when alteration comes,

nor if it bends and removes with the remover.

Oh! Oh! Love is a mark which fixed forever.

Love is never shaken in tempests,

and it is the star to every wandering barker

whom people don't know his worth

although his height is taken.

Love is not Time's fool

though rosy lips and cheeks cannot afford to get older

because of the passing of time.

Love does not alter with brief hours and weeks.

Love supports the unchangeness even to the edge of doom

If whatt I say is wrong or upon proved.

I will not write and no man everr loved.

The poem express the fixity of love. The attitude of this speaker toward love is that love never changes although the world changes. And the speaker also wants to find a lover who do not alter and has a true mind. According to the speaker, love is an everlasting thing. Love can pass the testt of time, and it is a communication between two true hearts.


(back to Q 1)

2. In the first quatrain the speaker says, " love is

not love" first and then tells the reason. This creates

curiosity and suspicion. Isn't this poem supposed to

be about love? Why does he say so? If the speakerr

says "If love alters when it alteration finds, it is not

love." The feeling won't be so strong. The effect is

the same in the second quatrain wheree the speaker

compared love to an ever-fixed mark and stars. He

explians the reason after the compassion.


2. The syntax the speaker uses is special. The

speaker always gives a definition to love and prove

them by some concret images. For example, in the

second stanza, he says " it is an ever-fixed mark"

before he expresses why love is ever-fixed. Then

he compares love with what isn't shaken on

tempest, and he also symbolizes love to "the star."


(back to Q 2)


3. The structure of this poem comes with four

lines a periods and finally two line a period. In fact,

love is very symbolic. We can not see it, touch it,

nor smell it. But we can feel it. in order to let

readerrs "feel" the lovee, the speaker uses clear

and concret thing to compare with love. That makes

love vivid for us to feel. In every period(stanza) we

have a comparison to get a clear image about what

the speaker wants to say.



3. The feeling develops stronger and stronger as we

read on. In the first quatrain the speaker talks about

what true love is: It is true when it does'nt change. In

the second, he tells us how determined and strong his

love is: It's not only unchangeable, it's unshaken in

every condition and it shines forever like a star.

Time is the most skillful killer, but in the third quatrain

he says his love won't give way to time. In the last

sentence he even pledges that his love will remain the

same 'till the end of time! In the last two lines of the

whole sonnet, he is very definite and confident that he

will never change beacuse if he changes then no

man's love is real. Maybe the listener is still

suspicious when she reads the third quatrain.


(back to Q 3)

4. The situation might be the speaker, probably a

young man is proposing to a young woman ( the

listener) who loves the young man bery much. The

more a person loves, the more she fears getting hurt,

so she isn't so sure about his love. The man knows

about her fear and thus tries to convince her.

The reason why I think the speaker and

listener are both young is that physical beauty fades

with time. But the speaker assures her that even if her

beauty fades away he'll still love her (3rd quatrain).

Tone : the speaker might have been turned

down before, so his tone is a little sad and earnest

and very sincere.


The speaker can be a man or a woman, and the listener can be his/her lover or anyone. If the listener is his/her lover, the speakeerr must be very eager to his/her love. The speaker loves his lover but is not quite sure about his lover. Because what he wants is a forever love but not a love game. The speaker wants to let his lover know his passionate and also hopes that he will be loved forever. If the listener is another person but not the one who speaker loves, the speaker may want to release his passionate because maybe he has been loving his girl for a long time but still not sure about if the girl will love him forever. Obviously, his attitude toward love is passionate and firm. He hopes sincerely that he would find a true love.


(back to Q 4)

5. In this poem, we can "see" love because the

speaker makes "love" concretely. He says that love is

never shaken in tempest. Then we have a picture in

which a tree or a stone or something would not be

moved by the strong wind. And the speaker says love

is a star. Then in our minds we see a shining star in

the sky which comforts lonely person's heart. Next, he

compare " time" with "bending sickle's compass." We

don't know how time passed by quickly, but through a

clear real thing we can feel time. Iit is like a bending

sicle to cut plants down. It makes our youth go away.


(back to Q 5)


1st changing --alter/ alteration--bend

2nd unchanging ever-fixed mark star

3rd Time's fool Time's sickle's compass

The first quatrain is all about changing while the

second is all about not changing. In the third quatrain

the writer uses one expression describing

"unchanging" after one "changing." He deliberately

creats contrast to convince the listener he is very

determined: You see everything is an ordeal to my

love but I just don't change.


Love is like a marriage of true minds. We all knoww marriage:two people understand each other and be patient to each other, and they love, doing anything possible to please each other, then they decide to get married to not only help each other but also creat a baby to prove their love. " The marriage of true minds" means the same thing. The basic thing is love.


(back to Q 6)

7. Metaphor

1st Love that changes --bends with remover to remove

2nd ever-fixed mark -- love that's unchangeable

star--precious, real and untouchable by any lover

3rd rosy lips and cheeks-- beauty

sickle--the damage time can go to love

edge of doom-- impossibility

Metaphor enables us to understand the feeling a poet

wants us to understand. The feeling are abstract, but

the concrete things and its features we are all familiar

with them.


There are many metaphors used in this poem. For example, "the marriage of true mind" means love.

The star also refers to the strength of love, which guides people, comfort people when they have not successful reached their goal.

Rosy lips and cheeks can refer to the beauty of a young woman or the time when love is till fresh and have not met difficulties.

We don't know what love looks like nor youth, beauty nor what "sincere," "ever-fixed mark" look like, so we have to make them concret. The speaker put metaphors in the poem in order to creat a real vision. So we can understand what love is.


(back to Q 7)

8.The last two line means if I break my words then

no other man can keep their promises, not havve they

ever really loved. The speaker is telling the listener

that he is the most determined man in loving a person

in the whole uninverse. These two lines function as a

reinforcement of his pervious statements.


The function of the last two lines show howw firmly the speaker trustt in love. He thinks the real love in the world should be what he has said, or love is not love. Another function is to express his strong love toward his lover. He uses this poem to show how firmly he loves and how he wishes to be together with his lover, forever.


(back to Q 8)

9. In the poem, the speaker says that the most striking feature of love is that it remains the same 'tll doomsday.



(back to Q 9)

10. There are examples of unchanging love like

Kim's love toward Christopher in musical "Miss

Saigon," the wife of Odysseus who waited for him for

twenty years. What I think is if you find your true love,

then love can last forever. But problem is that true love

is hard to find, just like diamonds, that's why pepole

think such love is not realistic.


We can get vivid images about love in the second and third stanza of the poem. Love do not shake in storm. Love is like a star to make people confident! although the sickle cut plants down just like time makes people older, love do not change. However, it can bear any difficulties and dooms.


(back to Q 10)