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Symbol Analysis

The idea of marriage is present in the background of this poem from the very first line. However, the poet doesn’t necessarily define marriage the way people typically do, as a religious sacrament or a legal procedure; instead, he emphasizes a more idealistic, transcendent vision of it. The marriage described in this poem is not a formal contract; rather, it is a "marriage of true minds," a phrase that suggests a deep understanding between two equals, rather than a mere legal bond. In Shakespeare’s time, marriage was far from an association between two equally powerful and independent people; women were basically surrendered into the control of their husbands when they got married. The relationship that Sonnet 116 discusses certainly does not conform to this conventional view of marriage. Instead of talking about the importance of obedience or subservience in married life, it focuses on faithfulness, forgiveness, and equality in any loving relationship.

  • Lines 1-2: The poem alludes directly to the Church of England’s official marriage service: before a couple can be officially married, the priest asks the gathered congregation if there is any impediment to the marriage. The poet sees none here.

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