Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare is one of his 154 sonnets and one among the ‘Dark Lady‘ sequence. The Dark Lady is a woman (whose name and identity are unknown) with whom he has an unhappy relationship. Like most of other sonnets, sonnet 130 also follows the rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG written in iambic pentameter. It has three quatrain and an ending couplet, a typical Shakespearean sonnet. This sonnet was published in 1609 Quarto.
In this sonnet, the poet genuinely describes his mistress and makes a number of comparisons to natural objects in which to describe her beauty and flaws. Shakespeare satirizes the tradition of the conventional poets, during and before the Elizabethan era, comparing their beloved to all wonderful natural objects. Here Shakespeare makes a number of negative comparisons but notes she is still loveable. Continue below to read summary and analysis of the Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.
SONNET 130 BY SHAKESPEARE
My 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 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.
SONNET 130 BY SHAKESPEARE SUMMARY
William Shakespeare begins the first quatrain of the Sonnet 130 by comparing his mistress’ eyes to the sun: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. Shakespeare tries to set a new tradition by not preferring to praise his beloved only of her beauty and strength. Because it looks artificial and spurious. Otherwise he wants to be authentic in his descriptions by concentrating her negatives also. He insists that his beloved’s breasts are not so white as snow, they are dull and greyish. Coral is far better than her lips; they not as red as a coral. Her hair is compared to a black wire, rough and coarse.
In the second quatrain of Sonnet 130, the poet continues comparing his beloved to some more natural objects. He says that he has seen roses damasked, red and white, and her cheeks are not like these roses and he finds some perfumes more delightful and pleasant than the breath from ‘my mistress reeks’. Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare
The third quatrain of Sonnet 130 also continues comparison of the speaker’s beloved. He likes to listen to his beloved speak, although he knows that music is far more pleasing. He is sure that her walk resembles no goddess (she walks like an ordinary human) although he has never seen a goddess walk.
In the last two lines, the poet promises that his lover is so unique, special and loveable as any woman in a conventional romantic poem where her beauty is excessively inflated through false comparisons.
Love and beauty are the important themes in Sonnet 130. Shakespeare highlights the true love in spite of several drawbacks of the woman; the poet declares his love for his beloved even though she is not that much beautiful and loveable.
Poetic techniques or devices are literary devices used in poetry to enhance the intensity of feeling, to create rhythm and in particular to beautify the verses. Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques which include metaphor, simile, alliteration and enjambment.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another, comparing one thing to another. In this sonnet, William Shakespeare compares his beloved’s hair to black wires: “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head”. Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare
A simile is a more vivid and direct comparison of two unlike and different things. This figurative language uses words like ‘as’ and ‘like’ to compare one thing to another similar thing. The poet uses simile in the first line of this sonnet: ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.’
Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. Alliteration is employed in the fourth line of the first quatrain: If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. Three alliterations are employed in the same line /h/, /b/ and /w/. Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare
Enjambment is a thought that does not come to an end at a line break. But it continues to the next line. In this sonnet: “And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks“.
Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare
THE 1609 QUARTO VERSION OF SONNET 130
MY Miſtres eyes are nothing like the Sunne,
Currall is farre more red,then her lips red,
If ſnow be white,why then her breſts are dun:
If haires be wiers,black wiers grow on her head:
I haue ſeene Roſes damaskt,red and white,
But no ſuch Roſes ſee I in her cheekes,
And in ſome perfumes is there more delight,
Then in the breath that from my Miſtres reekes.
I loue to heare her ſpeake,yet well I know,
That Muſicke hath a farre more pleaſing ſound:
I graunt I neuer ſaw a goddeſſe goe,
My Miſtres when ſhee walkes treads on the ground.
And yet by heauen I thinke my loue as rare,
As any ſhe beli’d with falſe compare.