Sonnet 116 and Love Is Not All

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William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 116” and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Love Is Not All” both attempt to define love, by telling what love is and what it is not. Shakespeare’s sonnet praises love and speaks of love in its most ideal form, while Millay’s poem begins by giving the impression that the speaker feels that love is not all, but during the unfolding of the poem we find the ironic truth that love is all. Shakespeare, on the other hand, depicts love as perfect and necessary from the beginning to the end of his poem. Although these two authors have taken two completely different approaches, both have worked to show the importance of love and to define it. However, Shakespeare is most confident of his definition of love, while Millay seems to be more timid in defining such a powerful word. Shakespeare makes it known in the first line that he will not come between two people who are in love. He believes that love is strong enough to endure temptation and not waver. If love is altered by another, a “remover” of love, it was not love. Nor, he says, does love change when circumstances change in the third line. He even claims that true love is not tempted: “That looks on the tempest and is never shaken” (6). Time is love’s most powerful adversary, and this is demonstrated by the capitalization of the word making it a living breathing enemy of love. However powerful Time is, Shakespeare is certain that love is still stronger. “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/ Within his bending sickle’s compass come.” The reference to the sickle shows just how much of a threat Shakespeare views Time. Like Death, Time too carries his sickle waiting to steal love that is based on the loveliness of youth. But of course true love cannot be fooled by Time. Love cannot be measured in “brief hours and weeks” (11). In the above paragraphs are listed five things that Shakespeare claims that love is not. What he does argue love to be is an “ever fixed mark” (5) “Whose...
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