Shakespeare begins the first quatrain with a statement, “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments”. It briefs the reader on what the sonnet is about and sets a scene for future development. The use of the negative, ‘not’, emphasizes that the poet wants to deny the truth. The negative also creates a slightly austere atmosphere. Through this and the synecdoche “marriage of true minds” it is shown that the poet envisions true happiness but there is something about what is happening that is troubling him.
The enjambment applied here by Shakespeare is especially effective as it conveys a feeling of importance of the supposedly unwelcome information he is about to disclose; although he says he is not going to ‘Admit impediments’ –in this context, obstacles in the way of love. The caesura in the middle of line 2 gives the next statement a feeling of emotion and provides substance. The enjambment for the sentence “Love is not love/which alters when it altercation finds” gives an impression of true lovers being truthful to each other.
Shakespeare has shifted the mood from one bordering on the negative to a more positive one. The constancy used in this line and the next, “Or bends with the remover to remove”, ascertains the fact that definite love does not change. The colon put to use at the end of this quatrain is indicative that in the following quatrain the poet will describe in detail a situation. The second quatrain uses metaphors portrays love as many model things, an unerring point in the sky and being of immeasurable value. The exclamation, “O no! ” informs us that true love is really not what he had written before.
Shakespeare proclaims love to be; “It is an ever fixed mark/ That looks on tempests and is never shaken”. The positive “it is” used here differs from the negatives used before and accentuates the depiction of love’s actual form. Additionally, this line is also a deep metaphor in itself, meaning that love is an ever-fixed point that is unaffected by any storm. The semi-colon introduces another metaphor, “It is the star to every wandering bark”, which is a reference to how boats during that time were called barquentines, or barks, and how sailors used stars to navigate.
This metaphor compares love to a paragon which all people look up to. The continuation of this metaphor, “Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken” declares that the love can be compared to in terms of other qualities but in itself has unfathomable value. This quatrain is actually an extended metaphor which Shakespeare has cleverly concealed. Within the third quatrain Shakespeare personifies love as something able to withstand the force of time. As “Love’s not Time’s fool” clearly reveals to us, the poet reckons love to not succumb to the effect of time.
The synecdoche, “Though rosy lips and cheeks”, together with the line “Within his bending sickle’s compass come” expresses that everyone, even the most perfect and beautiful, will one day die. The hard consonant sounds used here stress the importance this. This is also a hidden metaphor for which Death is compared to putting in use his scythe to reap us humans, i. e. kill, albeit only eventually. The next two lines, “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, / But bears it out even to the edge of doom” is an allusion to love standing its ground even in the wake of Doomsday.
This quatrain effectively illustrates love as a thing that endures all hardship; reinforcing the extended metaphor of the previous quatrain. In the final couplet, Shakespeare makes a witty declaration. The final two lines of this sonnet create a sort of paradox, as he writes “If this be error and upon me proved, / I never writ, nor no man ever loved”. As he has written much more than any other person, Shakespeare will theoretically not be wrong.
The phrase “Nor no man ever loved” has deep emphasis on the negative “nor”, suggesting that he should somehow be sad but is not. Shakespeare ends the sonnet on a rather melancholic tone. Ultimately, Shakespeare expresses his own feelings and opinions through the sonnet. His usage of language techniques helps him do so. Love is shown to be not only a quality, but it is personified as a perfect, unchanging thing, unaffected by time. Shakespeare has really proved himself to be a prolific writer and extraordinarily capable poet as result of this sonnet.