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Symbol Analysis

The idea of love as a guiding star isn’t a new one, but in this poem, Shakespeare approaches it with a renewed enthusiasm. The poem’s central extended metaphor is the comparison of love to a star – specifically the North Star, which doesn’t ever change position in the night sky. This made it particularly important to sailors, who calculated the location of their ships based on the stars. The North Star provided a stable point around which the other stars appeared to revolve, making it central to navigation for centuries. The poet uses nautical imagery to construct the mental picture of love as a star leading all of us through life.

  • Lines 5-8: In line five, the declaration that love is "an ever-fixed mark" introduces this extended metaphor of love as a star to which we all look. The poet also goes a step further into figurative language land and personifies this love-star, saying that it "looks on tempests and is never shaken" (6), and later, that the star’s "worth’s unknown, although his height be taken" (8).
  • The idea of love as a star guiding the rest of the world really takes off in lines 6 and 7. The "tempests" that threaten the seas are a metaphor for the challenges that may plague a relationship, like arguments or infidelity, while in line 7, the "wand’ring bark" is a metaphor for the lover, being led through the tumultuous sea of life by love. The word "wand’ring" also personifies this lost ship, giving us the feeling that it’s looking for something.

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