Shakespeare's Sonnets

Two Faces Seen as One

Innumerable poems address the concept of love, with the written battle between positive love and negative love continuing to be waged today. Not surprisingly, there are not, nor would we expect many future poets to write, many poems that juxtapose both the positive and negative characteristics of love. Shakespeare, an unconventional poet, does just that in his Sonnet CXVI. Shakespeare's initial impression offers a seemingly positive outlook on love, though further insight reveals that his intentions may have been the complete opposite. His explicit details of an ideal love disguise his implicit use of form and vocabulary to show that love is rarely as perfect as we would like it to be.

Shakespeare begins the sonnet imperfectly, perhaps as a way of foreshadowing how he later intends to describe love. While traditional sonnets are written in iambic pentameter, the first line of Sonnet CXVI starts with two trochees, exemplified in, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments" (lines 1-2). Ironically, this sentence does "admit impediments" by opening with a contradiction in form. Because Shakespeare emphasizes a "marriage of true minds," he implies that only in an unblemished...

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