Sonnet 130 by William ShakespeareMy mistress eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damaskd, 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 mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
tom hiddleston -- sonnet 130 by william shakespeare
Analysis and Interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”
Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print. Sonnet is an unusual poem because it turns the idea of female beauty on its head and offers the reader an alternative view of what it's like to love a woman, warts and all, despite her shortcomings. It parodies other sonnets of the Elizabethan era which were heavily into Petrarchan ideals, where the woman is continually praised and seen as beyond reproach. In this sense sonnet is an anomaly, a unique poem that flouts the rules of convention and breaks new ground in the process.
Ornamental head-dresses of the period often contained gold wires, so that it was quite normal to compare lush blonde hair with the gold wires in the head-dress above. Blonde was fashionable then, as now. The mistress, however, has black and not blonde hair. Damask roses were a sweet-smelling variety popular at the time. The word was not used then with our heavily negative sense, but more neutrally. Sonnet refers to her, even though we do not know her name.
Is this poem a touching paean to inner beauty opposed to superficiality or is it misogynist trash? Anyway, before we proceed to our analysis of this divisive poem, here is Sonnet I have seen roses damasked, 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 mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound: I grant I never saw a goddess go, My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare, As any she belied with false compare. Perfumes smell sweeter than the breath that comes out of her mouth. And yet, I think she is as rare a woman as any woman who has been falsely compared to these paragons of beauty.
How many of Shakespeare's sonnets dwell on a religious theme?
Sonnet is a parody of the Dark Lady, who falls too obviously short of fashionable beauty to be extolled in print. The poet, openly contemptuous of his weakness for the woman, expresses his infatuation for her in negative comparisons. For example, comparing her to natural objects, he notes that her eyes are "nothing like the sun," and the colors of her lips and breasts dull when compared to the red of coral and the whiteness of snow. Whereas conventional love sonnets by other poets make their women into goddesses, in Sonnet the poet is merely amused by his own attempt to deify his dark mistress. The poet must be very secure in his love for his mistress — and hers for him — for him to be as disparaging as he is, even in jest — a security he did not enjoy with the young man. Although the turn "And yet" in the concluding couplet signals the negation of all the disparaging comments the poet has made about the Dark Lady, the sonnet's last two lines arguably do not erase the horrendous comparisons in the three quatrains.