How might one interpret the meaning and tone of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun")?
The tone and meaning of William Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 (“My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun”) are open to interpretation, as is especially the case with almost anything written by Shakespeare. However, the main purpose of this sonnet seems to be to mock other poets and sonnet-writers who offer exaggerated praise of the women they claim to love. The speaker in Shakespeare’s poem, in other words, is probably not making any great fun of his mistress, except in a gently teasing way; instead, he is making fun of the way other writers praise women.
Throughout most of the poem, the speaker lists some of the standard features that most poets mentioned when praising their mistresses, such as eyes, lips, breasts, hair, complexion, breath, sound of speech, and manner of walking. Shakespeare’s speaker calls attention to the hyperbolic, artificial, and literally unbelievable nature of much of this praise. By rejecting the conventional phrasing of other writers, Shakespeare’s...
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