Let me not to the marriage of two minds is the well-known sonnet by William Shakespeare. It has not lost its actuality nowadays, as the theme of love will live until the humanity exists. In this very sonnet the author cogitates about the nature and properties of true love. The author has a lot of poems devoted to this issue.
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The reader can interpret starting lines as the response to the question of the priest in the wedding ceremony about the reasons preventing the couple from getting married The structure of the phrase “Let me not to the marriage of true minds” (Shakespeare line 1) suggests the thought of some dialogue, preceding the sonnet.
The first two lines of Shakespeare’s poem immediately introduce the readers his reflections about love. He calls it “the marriage of two minds” (Shakespeare line 1).
The author of course does not mean the real marriage, he uses metaphor here to describe this especial kind of relations. Shakespeare uses the word “minds” instead of more obvious “hearts” or “souls”, underlining the ideal character of this love, when the thoughts of the lovers come hand in hand. He also does not use some material notion in order to underline the platonic character of true love.
Shakespeare continues by developing his idea – “Admit impediments. Love is not love” (Shakespeare line 2). Rather formal word “impediments”, which was also used in the church wedding service, just strengthens the reference to the idea of lofty character of love.
At the same time the author neglects the possibility of existence of any obstacles for love. The phrase “love is not love” (line 2) shows the reader the following development of the sonnet – it becomes obvious that the author wants to show the reader the peculiarities of untrue love.
Shakespeare then continues to develop his thought. He specifies the previous statement, explaining, as it was expected, what are the traits of untrue love – “Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove” (Shakespeare lines 3-4). The author uses repetition is both lines to underline its sense.
The repetition of “alter” helps to show that true love is not changeable, and only some other kind of relations can be altered. The next line emphasizes this statement with the help of repetition of “remove”, stressing that even if someone is trying to destroy love, it will not give up and survive. These two lines also finish the first quatrain, which depicts what true love is not supposed to be and what qualities are not peculiar to it.
The next quatrain opens with the line “O no! it is an ever-fixed mark” (Shakespeare line 5). The exclamation “O no!” helps to achieve the turn of the tone of the sonnet and the change in the mood of the reader, telling him that the author will show another side of love, stating now what true love is and what qualities are peculiar to it.
The comparison of love with the “ever-fixed mark” (Shakespeare line 5) again shows the unchangeable character of that emotion, as against it was shown in the first lines. The next words “that looks on tempests and is never shaken” (Shakespeare line 6) even make the previous phrase sound more convincing – the reader should understand that in the raging sea of fast changing human feelings only true love remains unflinching.
As we can see, the previous lines introduce some naval theme – the next words extend it – “It is the star to every wand’ring bark” (Shakespeare line 7). It becomes obvious that “an ever fixed mark” (line 5) from the previous lines is the North Star, as it is the only star that never changes its position. The metaphor “love is a star” is not new for the poetry of course, but it also helps to underline the eternal character of this feeling, as many men before used the same words.
The love can also direct you to the right way if you are lost. The next line “whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken” (Shakespeare line 8) just confirms the associations with the star, as the seamen knew the location of it in the sky, its height, and could find their way home just using it, when everything else is unclear.
The lines “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come” (Shakespeare lines 9-10) represent the other part of the sonnet which introduces the new idea of the opposition of love and time. Everything in the world is subordinated to the laws of time. The physical beauty will fade and the lovers will not be so attractive as they used to. However, love does not care about it. It stays above the physical world, and time has no power over it.
The last lines of this quatrain enlarge the opposition of love and time and give a short summary of the sonnet – “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom” (Shakespeare lines 11-12). Eternal time is just “brief” (line 11) for those, who are in love, they do not notice the hours, weeks and decades spent with their beloved ones and love does not disappear with their death – it can only be finished with the end of our world, at the “edge of doom” (Shakespeare line 12), which is the metaphor meaning the end of days.
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The ending couplet is a strong finish by Shakespeare His final words represent very impressive and meaningful ending. By the lines “If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved” (Shakespeare lines 13-14) the author achieves several purposes at the same time.
First of all he challenges the reader by the direct question and insistence to give some evidence of him lying, what is rather difficult to do. However, there is the second meaning of this phrase. The last lines present a rhetorical question, which is known to be the strong stylistic device, usually used to prove the ideas of the speaker. It becomes obvious that the answer is already known.
“Let me not to the marriage of two minds” has become one of the most well-known poems of all time. The author starts the sonnet with some kind of expressive answer it the wedding ceremony, which leads to the reflections about the peculiarities of true love. The language of the sonnet is not very rich with different stylistic devices and some metaphors used here are not new for the poetry of that time, but it is not the main thing in this sonnet. The reflections about the nature of love are the key point of the story and they are so perfectly organized that it is very easy to be involved in the discussion. Ended with the rhetoric question this sonnet shows Shakespeare’s conviction in the existence of true love.
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 116: Let Me Not to the Marriage of Two Minds. n.d.