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One of the most well-known Elizabethan sonneteers, William Shakespeare, is renowned for his ability to convey both his thoughts and feelings by his use of figurative language in his work. His sonnets touch upon a variety of themes, but most commonly, love. "Let me not to the marriage of true minds" is one such sonnet, in which Shakespeare depicts love's loyalty and everlasting nature which will never fade. Shakespeare has carefully woven his perspective on love and its ways, through the use of personification, an extended metaphor, symbolism and repetition.
First of all, the distinct use of personification throughout the course of this poem, made it easier for the reader to relate to because it gave nonhuman things human attributes, specifically throughout the second and third quatrains. In the second quatrain, Shakespeare personifies love with the human characteristics such as 'whose' and 'his'. He speaks of love in such a way, to express its importance and to convey his idea of true love and it eternal nature. In addition, the third stanza highlights that 'time' is a person. It is personified this way to express that love does not operate similarly to a clock, where there is a specific time for things to happen. Instead, Shakespeare suggests that physical traits, such as 'rosy lips and cheeks'(line 9), will fade with time, but love on the other hand, never will. The use of personification turns the sonnet into a more relatable picture as everything had been given human qualities making it easy for us to compare to the things around us. It therefore definitely assisted Shakespeare to convey how he both felt and thought throughout this lyric.
Another great poetic technique that is used consistently during the poem, is metaphors. From lines 5 to 7 a special metaphor can be found called an extended metaphor, were Shakespeare uses a reference to stars and ships and relates love as a North star which ships can always rely on to show them the right way. He also states that when the seas are rough and ships get thrown all over the ocean, the star remains unshaken, 'that looks on tempests and is never shaken' (line 6). This made is what made it particularly important to sailors, who calculated the location of their ships based on the stars. He nautical imagery to construct the mental picture of love as a star leading all of us through life. He suggests that love can be used as a guide to get through difficult stages of life and gives us reliable direction to our lives whatever position we may be in. The use of this extended metaphor also emphasises the thought that Shakespeare has in his mind, of true loves constancy and dependability.
In addition, the use of symbolism which starts from the very first line of the poem. In this sonnet Shakespeare does not describe marriage as the way people normally do, a religious ceremony, instead, he proposes a more idealistic, vision by saying "marriage of true minds,"(line 1). This suggests that he sees love as more than just a legal bond between two people but also, a deep understanding between two equals. In Shakespeare's time, women were basically surrendered into the control of their husbands when they got married. The relationship that Shakespeare is creating in the sonnet is a more faithfulness, forgiving one, with equality between the both partners instead of the obedience of the women and the power of the man.
Finally, the use of repetition throughout the poem. For example, "bends with the remover to remove", "Love is not love" and "alters when it alteration finds". In the line "love is not love" Shakespeare repeats the word "love" to create two different meanings to the word same word. First, what Shakespeare sees as love and then what the reader believes to be love. Shakespeare then shows where his view on what love is, greatly differs from what the reader originally thinks. This small quote from the poem shows that Shakespeare wants to change our perspective of love. Say that love is not love, in other words, our definition of love is not true love. His thoughts and feeling on love are so evidently conveyed through the use of repetition because he is able to say that the reader is wrong and what he thinks is right.
All in all, the use of personification, metaphors and repetition does not only emphasise the theme of everlasting love, but it also assists Shakespeare greatly to convey his thoughts and feelings about the theme, love, and poem as a whole.