What Is Love: Meter as an Indicator of Argumentative Rhetoric in Sonnet 116 Essay Sample

10 October 2017

“If this be mistake. and upon me proved. / I ne’er writ. nor no adult male of all time loved. ” So reads the reasoning pair in Sonnet 116. one Shakespeare’s most good known. due to its idealistic word picture of love. Unlike. most pairs in sonnets. these lines give any indicant of an overarching subject. Alternatively. it takes the signifier of a syllogism It is this averment that Shakespeare refers to with his “this. ” Often Shakespeare uses metre in this sonnet to convert audiences of his idealised definition of love.

Shakespeare uses the iambic pentameter non merely to command the rhythmic construction of this sonnet. but besides to direct the audiences of the sonnet to its intended significance. For illustration. Sonnet 116 Begins with the celebrated line: “Let me non to the matrimony of true heads / Admit impediments” ( ll 1-2 ) . To the insouciant reader this would likely read “Let-me | not- to| the-mar | riage-of | true-minds / Ad-mit | im-ped| im-ents” . with the italicized text unstressed and the normal text stressed. for that is how the emphasiss fall in normal English address. With this pronunciation. it merely seems like the poet is merely seeking to avoid conveying up any obstructions between two peoples. and the line doesn’t keep excessively much importance. Adding iambic pentameter radically changes its sound: “Let-me | not- to| the-mar | riage-of | true-minds / Ad-mit | im-ped| im-ents. ” Suddenly. the first emphasis lands on the “me. ” Reading the subsequent lines makes it absolutely clear that Shakespeare is lauding on the virtuousnesss of love. However he is making so by puting restraints on it ; in other words. he is depicting what it is and what it is non. This is a rhetorical scheme for specifying constructs known as merismus ; specifying by what something is is known as positive merismus. and specifying by what something is non is known as negative merismus.

For illustration. the merismus is clear in the line “ [ Love ] is an ever-fixed grade / That looks on storms and is ne’er shaken” and besides in the line “Love alters non with his brief hours and hebdomads. / But bears it out ev’n to the border of doom” ( ll. 5-6. 11-12 ) . Both these lines assert the poet’s word picture of love. either by first declaring what it is and so by what it is non. or frailty versa. Positive and negative merismus are both omnipresent in the verse form and show that the poet does specify love in his sonnet. However. as the presence of negative merismus is predicated by the presence of negative words. such as “no’s” and the “not’s. ” it delineates a more restrained. defensive definition. as if the poet is expecting defense. This is the ground for the emphasis on the “me” in the first line. The poet is making more than merely saying a definition of love. If that were his lone involvement. a simple. one sentence definition would do. instead than a sonnet packed with rhetorical scheme. Rather. the presence of his restrained definitions and rhetoric entreaty in the pair indicate that the poet is more interested in converting the audience of his averments on love. and the gap line serves a statement by the poet of his intent in the sonnet. With the stressed “me. ” he is stating that he as the definer will seek to “avoid impediments” to his definition of love. Harmonizing to critic Jane Roessner:

The particular powers and duties that accrue to a poet. as definer. are announced in the expansive gap lines. . . The definition of love that forms the cardinal portion of the verse form is framed by this sentence and the pair. . . Basically. the sonnet takes the signifier: “I am the keeper of this sacrament. ‘ the matrimony of true minds’ ( ll. 1-2 ) . This is what I keep ( ll. 2-8 ) . and what I keep it from ( ll. 9-12 ) . I pledge to maintain it true ( ll. 13-14 ) . The cardinal and abstract definition is guarded by “me” at both terminals of the verse form. These self mentions in the frame suggest that the poet/speaker is non merely the definer of the sacrament of love. “the matrimony of true heads. ” but besides the keeper of that sacrament ( Roessner. 333-4 ) .

Roessner exactly summarizes the intent of the stressed “me. ” In emphasizing on the word. the poet claims duty for his definition. This claim is an entreaty to ethos. for his accepting of these “special powers and responsibilities” every bit good as the rubric “keeper of [ the ] sacrament” of love boosts his authorization. However. it is besides a load. for he risks giving a definition that fails and/or contaminations the construct of love. Either manner. with the poem’s emphasis on the word “me. ” the poet has accepted and made clear to the audience his load of cogent evidence. so as to admit that he means to support his definition of love.

The poet’s metre continues to foreground the poet’s consciousness of his load as “definer” in the verse form. While he does use merismus ubiquitously through the verse form. in utilizing it to specify love. the poet depends negative merismus instead than positive. Merely lines 5. 7. and 12 contain positive merismus. The prevalence of negatives entirely largely merely gives the sonnet a predominately negative tone. However. the huge bulk of these negative words land on the stressed beats of their iambic pess. such as in the phrases “Oh-no. . . . ” or “Love’s-not | time’s-fool. . . ”or“ Love-al | ters non. . . ” ( ll. 5. 8. 10 ) . In all these phrases. the “no’s” and “not’s” are highlighted by the stressed beats. and therefore are given more importance in the beat of the verse form. Left unstressed. these negative words are merely a portion of the poet’s averments of love’s truth. With the emphasis. they turn from averments into denials of the love’s falsehood. Rhetorically. this is a superb scheme. It turns questionable definitions of love into restraints that give love about legalistic parametric quantities. By seting all these restraints together. and specifying love as whatever falls within them. the poet creates watertight definition of love that is difficult to rebut. and hence. difficult non to hold with.

Plants Cited

Gillespie. Patrick. “PoemShape. ” Web Blog Post. Iambic Pentameter and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. WordPress. com. 10 Jan. 2011. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //poemshape. wordpress. com/2008/12/14/what-is-iambic-pentameter-shakespeares-sonnet-116/ & gt ; .

Roessner. Jane. “The Coherence and the Context of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. ” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. Vol. 81. No. 3. Champaign. IL. University of Illinois Press. July. 1982. Print.

“Shakespeare’s Sonnets. ” Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Oxquarry Books

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