My mistress’ eyes are nopoint prefer thesun; Coral is far even more red than her lips’ red; If scurrently be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have watched roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mitension reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I recognize That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I give I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: And yet, by heaven, I think mylove as rare As any kind of she belied with false compare.

Summary: Sonnet 130

This sonnet compares the speaker’s lover to a number ofother beauties—and never in the lover’s favor. Her eyes are “nothinglike the sunlight,” her lips are less red than coral; compared to whitescurrently, her breasts are dun-colored, and also her hairs are prefer blackwires on her head. In the second quatrain, the speaker says he hasseen roses separated by shade (“damasked”) into red and also white, buthe sees no such roses in his mistress’s cheeks; and also he states thebreath that “reeks” from his mitension is less delightful than perfume.In the third quatrain, he admits that, though he loves her voice,music “hath a far even more pleasing sound,” and that, though he hasnever viewed a goddess, his mistress—unchoose goddesses—walks on theground. In the couplet, yet, the speaker declares that, “byheav’n,” he thinks his love as rare and handy “As any she beliedthrough false compare”—that is, any type of love in which false comparisonswere invoked to define the loved one’s beauty.

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Read a translation of Sonnet 130→


This sonnet, among Shakespeare’s a lot of famous, plays anintricate joke on the conventions of love poeattempt prevalent to Shakespeare’sday, and also it is so well-conceived that the joke remains funny today.Many sonnet sequences in Elizabethan England also were modeled afterthat of Petrarch. Petrarch’s well known sonnet sequence was writtenas a collection of love poems to an idealized and also idolized mistressnamed Laura. In the sonnets, Petrarch praises her beauty, her worth,and her perfection using an extraordinary range of metaphors based largelyon herbal beauties. In Shakespeare’s day, these metaphors had alreadyend up being cliche (as, indeed, they still are today), but they werestill the accepted method for writing love poeattempt. The resultwas that poems tended to make very idealizing comparisons betweennature and the poets’ lover that were, if taken literally, completelyridiculous. My mistress’ eyes are prefer the sun; her lips are redas coral; her cheeks are favor roses, her breasts are white as scurrently,her voice is prefer music, she is a goddess.

In many kind of means, Shakespeare’ssonnets subvert and reverse the conventions of the Petrarchan lovesequence: the idealizing love poems, for circumstances, are created notto a perfect womale yet to an admittedly imperfect man, and also the love poemsto the dark lady are anything yet idealizing (“My love is as a fever before,longing still / For that which longer nurseth the disease” is hardlya Petrarchan conceit.) Sonnet 130 mocksthe typical Petrarchan metaphors by presenting a speaker who seemsto take them at challenge value, and also rather bemusedly, decides to tellthe fact. Your mistress’ eyes are favor the sun? That’s strange—mymistress’ eyes aren’t at all favor the sun. Your mistress’ breathsmells like perfume? My mistress’ breath reeks compared to perfume.In the couplet, then, the speaker shows his full intent, which isto urge that love does not need these conceits in order to bereal; and also woguys carry out not should look favor flowers or the sun in orderto be beautiful.

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The rhetorical framework of Sonnet 130 iscrucial to its result. In the initially quatrain, the speaker spends oneline on each comparison between his mistress and something else(the sunlight, cdental, snow, and also wires—the one positive thing in the wholepoem some part of his mianxiety is favor. In thesecond and 3rd quatrains, he expands the descriptions to occupytwo lines each, so that roses/cheeks, perfume/breath, music/voice,and goddess/mitension each receive a pair of unrhymed lines. Thiscreates the effect of an broadening and occurring argument, andnicely avoids the poem—which does, after all, count on a singlekind of joke for its initially twelve lines—from coming to be stagnant.

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