The Invincible Warrior : Love As a Dynamic Force in Shakespeare's Sonnets
Shakespeare's love sonnets describe three different contexts in which love operates, as such, he depicts a multi-
faceted picture of love. Love in Shakespeare's poems does not have a single definition, but rather, an intangible
conglomeration of characteristics that, together, make up an ever powerful force that defeats all obstacles. In
Shakespeare's love Sonnets numbers 116, 130, and 147, love is depicted as an overwhelming force that triumphs
over time, the physical world, and reason, respectively. The force of love overpowers Shakespeare's era's cultural
ideals of physical beauty in sonnet 130. In poem number 147, the speaker's reasonable mind is overridden by
emotions which arise from his love and desire for his absent partner. Finally, in sonnet 116, love is given an identity
as an immortal force, which overcomes age, death, and thus, time. On another level, these three sonnets can be seen
as describing the three different identities of love. Love can be seen as an !
internally possessed force which is directed within oneself; love can be an internal force which is directed against
external factors, or love can be an external force, operating independently, regardless of the individual, and
overcoming other powerful external forces. As such, these sonnets create a vision of love as a dynamic and multi-
relational force.
Each sonnet describes a different conflict in which love is engaged. In sonnet 116, love is depicted as an invincible
force that defies time as well as time's effects on beauty and youth, changes such as wrinkles and old age. "Love's
not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/Within his bending sickle's compass come."(Lines 9 and 10) Love,
unlike the physical being, is not subject to decay. Through the capitalization of the words Love and Time,
Shakespeare personifies both of these words, giving them identities, which are independent of any possessor. Time
becomes godlike, omnipotent yet abstract. Love, too, becomes a powerful character, despite remaining physically
intangible. Love is presented as an entity with supernatural qualities. This identity is everlasting, immortal, and
unaffected be the passing of Time, which is also eternal. In many of Shakespeare's sonnets, Time is often portrayed
as the destroyer of all that is happy and beautiful, because with time, e!
verything changes, happiness fades and what was once beautiful fades away and then dies. The speaker claims that
his love, real love, is untouched be the cruel hand of Time. "Love," he says, "is an ever-fixed mark that looks on
tempests and is never shaken."(Lines 5 and 6) According to Shakespeare, true Love is more permanent and powerful
than Time, hence, love remains immutable despite the changes brought on by physical decay and despite changes
wrought by the world, such as storms, wars and revolutions.
Shakespeare further develops upon his ideas of love as a force which overcomes the restraints of physical existence
in Sonnet number 130. In this poem, Shakespeare expands his definition of love to include an image of love as a
force that overcomes social pressures. Shakespeare's speaker resists the conventions of his era's romantic poetry by
describing his lover as an exception to all of the traditional romantic metaphors for beauty. Shakespeare refutes one
of his culture's most basic ideals: that of the universal standard of beauty, "if snow be white, why then her breasts
are dun."(Line 3) Unlike other romantic poets of his time, in Sonnet 130 the speaker describes his beloved as an
earthly and realistic woman. She, unlike most women in poetry, is not misrepresented. Shakespeare's speaker does
not use false metaphors to describe her. He is able to depict her in human terms because, to the speaker, love is not
based on physical beauty but rather on feelings, sensibili!
ties, and affections. According to Shakespeare, love is more profound than the materialistic, romantic poems of his
era seem to imply. Love overcomes the romantic imagery of what the ideal woman should look like. The speaker's
love is, in this case, overcoming one physical reality of his situation: that his mistress may not be beautiful enough
to deserve love and poetry, according to his culture's expectations of beauty. Shakespeare's speaker does not portray
his lover as a goddess or as a princess;