William Shakespeare's Poetry
Support for studying English GCSE and A Level
William Shakespeare - 'Sonnet 116' - Annotation
Annotation prompts for William Shakespeare's 'Sonnet 116'.
'Sonnet 116' is taken from Shakespeare's collection of 154 sonnets -- published 1609. They were dedicated "Mr. W.H" -- identity unknown. Critics have speculated that the initials could refer to various people. Two most likely candidates: William Herbert (the Earl of Pembroke), who was the dedicatee of the First Folio of Shakespeare's works / Henry Wriothesley (Earl of Southampton) with initials reversed -- he was known for his good looks and the dedicatee of Shakespeare's poems Venus & Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Shakespeare was baptised 26.04.1564 / died 23.04.1616. This sonnet -- one of Shakespeare's most famous -- presents love as unwavering. Love is an abstract concept and difficult to describe. Study the ways Shakespeare defines, then redefines love.
There is a lot of debate about who the poem was aimed at. Is the love plutonic / sexual? Is the love described in the poem between a man and a woman? Does this poem hold an idyllic view of love? Are we right to assume that this poem is from Shakespeare's perspective? He is regarded as the greatest writer of the English language. He has written 38 plays / 154 sonnets. He married Anne Hathaway and had 3 children.
The annotation prompts are a supportive tool, intended to encourage further analysis and interpretation.