Scenes Spotlight: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 in Sense & Sensibility

Today’s the Bard’s 448’s birthday!

I didn’t realize it until Garrison Keillor, the host of NPR Writer’s Almanac, talked about it this afternoon on my way home from work. At the end of the segment, Mr. Keillor read one of William Shakespeare‘s most famous love sonnets published in 1609: Sonnet 116

Of course it was such a delight as that sonnet was featured in my favorite film of all time, Sense and Sensibility. In fact, since I regretfully wasn’t taught Shakespeare back in high school, that is perhaps my introduction to this beautiful sonnet that talks about what LOVE is [or supposed to be], and what LOVE is not.

The sonnet appears twice in the Ang Lee‘s film, though it wasn’t part of the Jane Austen’s novel. Emma Thompson, who deservedly won an Oscar for the screenplay, must have been a fan of this particular poem, and why not, it’s so beautiful and poignant.

The first instance the sonnet was spoken was in this scene when Willoughby asked Marianne what her favorite sonnet was… and of course, as soon as he started reciting it, she was done for.

The second time it’s spoken, the circumstances between the two has changed dramatically… it’s such an emotionally-charged scene that is filled with deep pathos of a young woman mourning the loss of her first love…

So whether or not his intention was honorable in the beginning, Willoughby’s love is not exactly ‘an ever-fixed mark.’ Winslet’s rendition of the sonnet here is so heart-wrenching… it’s as if she could barely notice the soaking-rain and though she should’ve been shivering in the cold, the stormy weather still can’t drown out the bitterness of Willoughby’s betrayal.

This is just one of the reasons I love this movie so much… the use of the sonnet is so fitting, so brilliant and so iconic that I think I’d forever associate this sonnet with this film. It goes to show just how timeless Shakespeare’s work really is.

Thoughts on this movie? Feel free to share YOUR favorite Shakespeare-related work in movies.

22 thoughts on “Scenes Spotlight: Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 in Sense & Sensibility

    1. Yes it does indeed. Thanks Aidy. Btw, I left you a comment on your SHAME post but it disappeared, not sure what happened to it, hope you got it.

  1. You’ve touched my heart with this post – love the film and love the sonnet (went out and bought the book of sonnets after I saw it)!!! I got to study Shakespeare, but Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing (in fact, I saw a version of Much Ado, a modern BBC retelling, that uses the same sonnet!!) Love it, love it, love it!

    1. Oh I’m so thrilled to hear it Ruth… this movie never fails to move me no matter how often I’ve seen it. I might do the same and buy the sonnet also, maybe they have a mini version like the one Willoughby has 🙂

      Was the Much Ado About Nothing part of ShakespeaRe-Told? I’ve only seen the Taming of the Shrew one w/ Rufus Sewell.

      1. Yep. I’ve seen the Much Ado (with Billie Piper as Hero) and the Macbeth one with James McAvoy. Benedick and Beatrice read it together, haha

  2. This is already one of Shakespeare’s most depressing sonnets (added to the fact that we essentially did a post-mortem of it in lit class) but anything is a great excuse for Kate Winslet being awesome in Sense and Sensibility.

    1. Man I’m so jealous that you’re studying it in class. It is depressing isn’t it, it’s more of a sobering look at love instead of a romantic one I think. That’s why it’s so perfect for Marianne’s predicament in S&S. Winslet is just superb here.

  3. I might have to check this out though it’s probably not really my cup of tea either though. Do love Winslet. That might help. I’m a bit of a simple guy and Baz’s R&J is probably my favourite bit of Shakespeare in film I’m afraid.

    1. If you love Winslet, this is a must-see Pete. She was nominated for an Oscar here and deservedly-so. Her performance is heartbreaking and bonus: Alan Rickman in a role that’s a far cry from Hans Gruber or Severus Snape 🙂

  4. Oh, I adore the movie and that scene! Winslet is really incredible in the movie but that scene was just so tragic and heartbreaking. And then when Brandon rescued her and carried her back my heart skipped a bit 🙂

    1. Indeed, Sati. Brandon is my hero… I just LOVE Alan Rickman and his character is so chivalrous and caring… he’s the ultimate quiet hero for me. Forget Willoughby, give me Col. Brandon any day!

      1. Oh, Willoughby is nothing comparing to Brandon ^^ I was so pissed off when Marianne kept ignoring Brandon as soon as Willoughby showed up, so glad she finally started acting sane in the end 🙂

  5. I love Shakespeare and love the fact that his work is used in another fantastic author’s famous work. And, while I have yet to sit through Sense and Sensibility, the scenes you uploaded were great. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks so much for that from an Austen fan, yes the mighty Jane admired Shakespeare and Cowper as well as Edmund Spenser who was also featured in this film of which I have my own copy. Some complain that the actresses who played the sisters weren’t young enough to play them being 16 and 18 yrs old in the novel but for me it is a favourite for many reasons. The emotion, humour and feeling in this film despite the cuts made to important situations in the books not explored in the film. The dedicated acting of great actors in this film made it as great as it was and much better than the tv version. Being also a fan of Shakespeare I find Austen and Shakespeare make for great companion novels. As his works will be featured at the UK Olympics I leave you with this readup.

  7. Pingback: My Movie Influence : Sense & Sensibility (1995) | Inspired Ground

  8. Pingback: My Movie Influence: Sense & Sensibility @ Inspired Ground Blog |

  9. Pingback: Happy Birthday, Jane Austen! My picks of 5 essential Austen film adaptations – FLIXCHATTER FILM BLOG

Join the conversation by leaving a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s