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    I am analyzing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. I am supposed to be identifying literary devices within the sonnet (which I will provide for those who are not familiar with it), but I can’t make out whether the mark (lighthouse) and star are symbols of love or metaphors.

    Here is the sonnet, for your convenience:

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove.
    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken
    Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.


    In my (entirely unprofessional) opinion, those are metaphors. To me, symbolism tends to be a lot less clear-cut, more vague.

    Basically, I would think that metaphor tends to be fairly explicit, while symbolism is the sort of thing that can be debated and depends heavily on individual interpretation.

    If that makes sense.

    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2010
  defines metaphor as “a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in ‘A mighty fortress is our God.’ “

    Symbol, meanwhile, is defined thusly: “something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.”

    Therefore, I vote for metaphor, although the meanings are very close and similar. You might even mention (depending on how your analysis is supposed to go) how the mark and the star could be interpreted as either metaphors or symbols.

    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2010

    I vote metaphor, as well. As soon as you get the words “[x] is [y]”, as in the highlighted line “it is the star”, that indicates a metaphor.


    I think it’s a metaphor too; for Taku’s reasons. ;)

    • CommentAuthorDanielle
    • CommentTimeJan 26th 2010

    I’d say metaphor. If it were a symbol, Shakespeare probably would have expanded on it a bit more. As Taku said, the phrase “it is” indicates it’s a metaphor, whereas a symbol is rarely called out as a symbol (“It is the east, and Juliet is the sun” vs. “And my soul, from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/ Shall be lifted—nevermore!”)


    Yeah, I went with metaphor. Thanks for the suggestions, guys.

    Hehe, I totally love this poem...mostly because it was used in the movie Sense and Sensibility, which is the second best Jane Austen adaption I've ever seen!

    Good luck, Snow White Queen, with your poetry analysis!

    I got it back today…the only thing the teacher said was to discuss more about why Shakespeare used a particular technique, which I can address in future.