sonnets 116 and 138

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Literature Essay Question: Discuss the presentation of love and/or death in two or more poems Love is a theme prevalent in texts throughout the ages. However, never has the theme been explored as thoroughly than in William Shakespeares’ sonnets. In Shakespeares’ sonnet 116, the poet constructs his ideal perception of what love should be. It praises the glories of lovers who have formed a relationship based on truth and understanding and where time and other impediments may not remove this perfect love. In sonnet 138, the love that he describes, is far from the perfect love described in sonnet 116. The poem is cynical about love and shows love as involving deception and pretence. These sonnets achieve these profound and yet opposing images of love through the poetic conventions of diction, figurative language and structure. The diction Shakespeare uses in both sonnets is very effective in conveying his theme of love. In sonnet 116, the theme of true love is very clear in the way the poet persuades us that: - “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,” which connotes that love in its most ideal form means no changes need to be made to the personality of either lover and understand each other. Another e Continue...


As made popular in the Shakespearian sonnet, the final couplet draws a conclusion or acts as a sting in the tail with regard to the rest of the sonnet. The first line: - "When my love swears that she is made of truth, The word 'love' is not only in reference to his wife, but also to the fact that it is his love that is making him believe her, not her lies fooling him. Sonnet 116 is very optimistic about the existence of true love. This illusion doesn't fool anyone as demonstrated in the first and second lines of the second quatrain: "Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young Although she knows my days are past the best In the third quatrain the persona examines the charade and questions the need for the lies regarding both male and female . On the other hand, sonnet 138 is far more cynical. The subjects of the poem see love as something only for the young and trustworthy and so try to build a relationship based on that philosophy, even if the foundation is of lies. When the woman he loves "swears she is true, he pretends to believe her in order to seem simple and inexperienced, so that he can seem young. In order for the male to appear young and naive, which is a pre-requisite for the couples' false love, he presents us with a paradox in the second line of the first quatrain: - "I do believe her, though I know she lies The first half of the line shows his willingness to appear young and naive, whereas the second half relates to his age and experience which shows that this false love cannot work. In sonnet 116 Shakespeare finishes with: - "If this be error and upon me proved I never writ, nor no man ever loved In essence, this means if anyone can find error in his definition of true love and can prove it, he will recall all he has written and everything he believes in, is totally false. What Shakespeare is suggesting, is that true love remains with a couple to their deathbed. Sonnet 138 uses the figurative devices of paradox and pun to emphasise the illusions and deceptions in love. xample of the implications of love comes in: - "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come This phrase shows that "Love is not at the mercy of "Time, even though Time may take away "rosy lips and cheeks which is a symbol of youth. The figurative language employed by Shakespeare is in conveying what true love should be like. In sonnet 138 the subjects reject this concept of true love and instil a false love, which is comfortable for them.