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Shakespeare - Definition of Love

Oct 08, 1999 993 Words
Shakespeare's definitions of Love and Lust

When there are women and an omnipotent force to procreate there will be a number of resources that a man will use in order to attract the opposite sex. Often with the use of the notorious whistle/mating call, the perpetual use of lies about income, the stench of musk cologne, or the ever-popular use of the love poem, men strive to appeal to women with the intent to see his way to her heart. William Shakespeare, a man who, based on his works, was full of passion for the opposite sex – whether it had been honest love or perverse lust. Nonetheless, Shakespeare, like most men, wished to charm women. With this having been so, Shakespeare's weapon of choice to be inwrought to a woman's heart was the powerful love poem. He understood love and how to attain love and demonstrated this in his often praised sonnets. Writing about the joys and tragedies while also writing about the trials and tribulations of love was Shakespeare's objective in select sonnets – Sonnet 116 and Sonnet 129. His views on what is love put into prose enables all that read his sonnets to interpret Shakespeare's definitions of love and lust.

Throughout his sonnets, Shakespeare discusses the conflicts that men have with time, such as time vs. the body and time vs. the mind. Although time withers the body and eventually the mind, Shakespeare writes that time has no effect, however, on love. Love prevails throughout time and is forever young when it is shared by two hearts that have become one. Love is a substance of the hearts united and calls for two individuals to commit to each other – commitment being marriage. Having committed one's self through marriage both individuals now turn a blind eye to the other's faults. To Shakespeare, this means that if one of the mates in the relationship cheats, the other should understand, forget, or forgive since adultery was the fault of one of the mate's and love cannot see faults. This is best exemplified in Sonnet 116 when Shakespeare writes:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove: (1-4)

Love is not only forgiving of faults but is also invincible in the eye of any storm. Whether it is hostility in the marriage or the death of one of the individuals in the marriage, love will continue to persevere between the two involved. Both of the instances mentioned are only obstacles for love to hurdle or winds for love to face and, like a sturdy building, remain erect. Shakespeare compares this invincibility of love to that of a lighthouse when he writes in Sonnet 116:

…it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. (5-8)

Shakespeare not only says that love is invincible; he also states that love cannot be altered by time. Love does not exist on Monday and cease to exist on Thursday; love continues regardless of time. As stated before, love is forever young. The body and the mind, being tangible and finite, as time goes by, languish. However, love is a perpetual flame that cannot be doused by the downpour of time. When the bodies of two individuals in love begin to perish their love for each other does not. Shakespeare writes:

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom. (9-12)

Along with love comes sex, but not always with sex comes love. Love's alter ego, lust, will taint and confuse relationships which will eventually end up with one having woe and regret. Shakespeare regards lust as the shame of any relationship. Often trusted as love, lust has the same attributes of love but a different emotional result. Shakespeare scorns lust in Sonnet 129 by writing:

Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust, (1-4)

Much like love, lust causes one to "want" a person intensely to the point that a person will go in pursuit of another. In addition, much like love, lust repeatedly haunts a person's psychological well being, making a person mad in yearning for another. Lust is beloved like a drug and causes, once experienced immediate bliss and ecstasy for all those involved. In spite of this, soon after that bliss is achieved a person wallows in regret and guilt, yet he/she still wants more. Shakespeare writes later in Sonnet 129:

Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had

Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait

On purpose laid to make the taker mad;

Mad in pursuit and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;

A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe; (5-11)


Both love and lust are characteristics of a relationship that will make one feel confused and awestruck. Both will also cause one to make heavily considered as well as hasty decisions regarding the relationship. Shakespeare realized this and realized that love is not as simple as kiss, hug, marry, and make babies. Nor is lust as simple as love and leave. Both are complicated effects of the opposite sex. Shakespeare's definitions of lust and love conveyed this and made it clear that love and lust are more than just words but rather very complex emotions that can either improve or hinder a relationship.

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