As Christian states in the film Moulin Rouge, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return”. Love plays a pertinent role in every individual’s life. Every human being aspires to love and be loved, whether it’s romantically or in other ways. From birth, we are taught how to love. With age, we crave a more ardent love. This kind of love typically (but not always) looks at one’s beauty first.
Media often portrays love as a whirlwind romance or something that is felt at first sight. These “whirlwind” romances all begin with an individual being captivated by another’s beauty. However, this is not true love.
True love is much deeper than what is depicted in today’s rom-coms; it is eternal, undying and overlooks the flaws of an individual. These inherent features of true love are conveyed in many of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In Shakespeare’s sonnet 116, the speaker explains how true love is unwavering and does not fall for temptation.
The speaker states that “Love is not love / which alters when it alteration finds” (2-3). This line is describing the rigid nature of true love. It does not bend to any changes in circumstance. Furthermore, he compares true love to “an ever-fixed mark / That looks on tempests and is never shaken” (5-6). He compares love to an ever-fixed mark, like a statue, because it is unmoving. True love does not falter when times get tough. This statement shows how love resists temptation; it remains unshaken even when one is presented with someone more beautiful than their partner.
To further support this notion, the speaker expresses that “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks / But bears it out even to the edge of doom” (11-12). The speaker knows that his lover will love him past his death and until the end of time. This statement proves that true love is not fleeting, but eternal. True love lasts until death or “doom”.
In Shakespeare’s sonnet 73, the speaker describes love as infinite. The speaker expresses his feelings towards his withering youth by stating “that on the ashes of his youth doth lie / As the death-bed whereon it must expire” (10-11). This statement means that the speaker is aging and the beauty of his youth is coming to an end. It’s easy to fall in love with someone that is healthy, young and beautiful. However, when time begins to take a toll on one’s beauty, we tend to lose that attraction. Wrinkles, sagging skin and grey hair is not what most imagine when they think of beauty. The speaker acknowledges how the season of life have affected him by stating that “When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang / Upon those boughs which shake against the cold” (2-3). The yellow leaves of fall symbolize midlife, when his youth begins to wither away. The boughs that shake in the winter symbolize his old age. He has become frail and is reaching the end of his life. However, he states that “This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong / To love that well which thou must leave ere long” (13-14). This line shows that love is something that strengthens with time. True love does not end with death but carries on into the afterlife. The lover is blind to the signs of aging and views the speaker the same as when he was young. Furthermore, it carries a common theme with other Shakespeare sonnets that signify the statement “Love is blind”.
The speaker professes his love for his significant other in Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 by stating “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; / Coral is far more red than her lips’ red” (1-2). In this line, he explains how her eyes are dark and colorless, not bright like the sun. Furthermore, he describes her lips as pale and colorless by contrasting them with the red hue of coral. He further criticizes her appearance by comparing her hair to “black wires” (4), and states that music has a much sweeter sound than her voice. Her hair is not shiny and smooth, but dark and wiry. Her voice doesn’t exactly sound like a symphony. At first glance, the speaker seems to be berating his lover. However, he goes on to explain that none of those negative traits are off-putting to him. He accepts that his lover is no goddess. He realizes that her voice is like nails on a chalkboard and that she doesn’t particularly smell like a rose. While he is not blind to her imperfections, he ignores them and loves her for who she truly is. He states his lover is “rare / As any she belied with false compare” (13-14). This statement exemplifies his belief that although she may not be conventionally beautiful, she is the picture of beauty to him. His love for her is rare because he “takes the good with the bad”. He acknowledges that she is no Aphrodite, but he loves her none the less.
True love is fixated and does not budge when pushed to the edge. It ignores the consequences that come with age and strengthens with time. True love does not follow beauty standards but creates its own. While youth and beauty are fleeting, love is eternal. Beauty plays a role in love; however, we fall for something much deeper than that. True love looks past the negative qualities of a person and takes them for who they truly are. Maybe if the world listened to Shakespeare and his views on how true love should be, divorce rates would be much lower. Nowadays, love is cheap. When tested by time or outside forces, we leave a relationship rather than working things out. Our generation values instant gratification, and would rather walk away when a challenge arises. Age, health, and temptation challenge us all. Despite this, real, true love stands the test of time. Ultimately, Shakespeare’s sonnets describe the love our generation should seek to obtain.