Literary Devices in Sonnet 116

Literary Devices Examples in Sonnet 116:

Sonnet 116 5

"loved..."   (Sonnet 116)

Ironically, the presence of this couplet at the end of the poem suggests that the speaker is defensive about his argument. He challenges the reader’s doubt in his claim to strike down the counterclaim before it can arise. However, because this occurs in the couplet, this counterclaim actually works to undermine his claim. It leaves the reader with the idea of the counterclaim rather than the idea of the original argument and it serves as a weak defensive argument rather than one based on strong logic.

"upon me proved,..."   (Sonnet 116)

“Upon me proved” inserts the speaker and his beloved into the poem. While the three preceding quatrains discussed love as an abstract concept, this final assertion involves proving the “error” of his logic using the speaker’s relationship. This final point implies that the speaker’s love for the youth is this idealized “marriage of true minds”—only by showing error in this relationship could one disprove the argument of this poem.

"though..."   (Sonnet 116)

While the last quatrain marked a shift from negation to definition, this quatrain begins with the speaker returning to the rhetorical movement of the first quatrain in these last two lines: he is once again describing ideal love by comparing it against physical love. The implication of this line is that ideal love is not subject to time’s sickle while physical love is by nature Time’s fool.

"alters when it alteration..."   (Sonnet 116)

The first quatrain contains three phrases in which a word is repeated: “love is not love,” “alters when it alteration finds,” and “remover to remove.” This mirroring effect imitates the dance of the couple. That the paired words often appear in slightly varied forms—such as “alter” and “alteration”—reinforces the theme of alteration. The words, like the lovers they imitate, exist in a state of tension because of their differences.

"fixed mark..."   (Sonnet 116)

Depicting this love as a “fixed mark” paints it as an objective or goal for all lovers. While the first quatrain fluctuates back and forth between parallel words and the grey areas between their differences—alters/alteration, remover/remove— “fixed mark” represents the singular nature of this love. The speaker is now defining the stable marriage of two minds rather than fickle physical love.