Can someone please paraphrase Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare?Sonnet 130, Shakespeare My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips' red; If snow be white, why...

Can someone please paraphrase Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare?

Sonnet 130, 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 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 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.

Asked on by moi4ever

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Sonnet 130 is an ironical sonnet and, for some, among his least appealing. While sonnets conventionally speak of love for a beloved who is graced with praiseworthy charms and beauties but who are often unreachable and inaccessible, this sonnet opposes that convention and speaks of a beloved who has seemingly not one feature that counts toward beauty but who is very accessible and present. This situational irony and reversal of sonnet convention must be grasped before the sonnet can be understood and a paraphrase constructed.

A quick summary is that, first, the sonneteer compares the beloved's features (adversely) to elements in nature through a series of similes and metaphors in the first quatrain (lines 1-4). At the line 5 volta (turn in topic), he switches to metaphors comparing what he has noticed in her to what he notices elsewhere through the second quatrain (lines 5-8). At the second volta (line 9), he turns to the topics of her speech and walk by comparing them adversely to music and a goddess. The couplet resolves the paradoxes of the love sonnet, having nothing but unfavorable comparisons, by asserting that in his estimation her unloveliness is as valuable ("rare": valuable, like a ruby or emerald) as any beauty.

A prose paraphrase goes something like this:

My beloved's eyes do not shine like the sun. Her lips are not as red as the red of ocean coral. White snow makes the flesh of her breasts look a dull grayish-brown color. Her hair is coarse like wires and black in color.

I've seen roses that are a beautiful red color (damask rose: hybrid rose that is red or pink in color), yet in her cheeks I see no red color like the rose. And perfumes smell sweeter than the breath my mistress breathes out.

I love to hear her speak even though, as I well know, her voice has no music in it. She cannot be compared to a goddess, though I never saw one, because she is of the earth and not of a goddess's heavenly ways.

Nonetheless, by heaven, I count my beloved as valuable as any beauty with whom a comparison would give a false valuation of my beloved's worth ("belie": to give a false impression of or to fail to give a true impression of).

There are differences of opinion on understanding two lines. One is, "My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground." Some suggest this refers to the weight of the beloved and her ponderous walk related to her heaviness. I disagree because goddesses are noted for their heavenly, airy way of "going" rather than for their light-footed traversing of earth. The second is, "As any she belied with false compare." Some suggest this refers to beauties who have been compared to ridiculous things like the sun and moon and dew drops. I disagree because "she" belies "any" focusing the meaning upon what the "mistress" does in relation to others, in this case, showing the true value of her own worth compared to the (perhaps) false value of the worth of shallow beauties.


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