“Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare is a part of group of lyric poems that address a lady that is unknown. This poem is an example of a parody of exaggerated love poetry. A parody is defined as an imitative work which is usually humorous and satirical. Shakepeare’s purpose is to indict the kind of hypocritical, mawkish poetry that have been written for hundreds of years.
In form, this is a typical Shakespearean sonnet. It has fourteen lines with three quatrains and a rhyming couplet at the end. The set rhyming scheme follows the accepted pattern: ABABCDCDEFEFGG. The poem is written in iambic pentameter or lines of ten syllables with the stress on every second syllable. Because of its rhythmic lines, this sonnet was intended to be read aloud.
The sonnet is narrated in first person. The speaker sarcastically describes a woman purported to be his lover. He makes fun of other poems that might lovingly describe the woman using trite similes and other over used figurative language.
Every line of the poem refers to the mysterious woman. Whether it is her eyes, breasts, smell, walk, each bit of information is vague. It is not the woman that really is the emphasis in this poem. It is the parody that the poem makes about love poetry and its sentimentality.
The narrator’s describes his lover:
Eyes are not solar
- It is easy to agree with this simile. No one expects the eyes to be like the sun.
Lips red but not coral
- If her lips are red, why do they have to be coral. That is just a bit persnickety.
Breasts are dull gray and not snowy white.
Hair is black not blond.
- Hair is not wire. Black hair is not less than blonde just different.
Her cheeks have no red and white blush.
Some perfumes give more delight than the horrid breath of his lover.
The narrator loves to hear her speak (a compliment).
Music has a better sound than her voice.
He has never seen a goddess walk but his mistress walks on the ground.
However, his love for this woman is unusual.
Especially since the woman’s traits have been portrayed with ridiculous comparisons.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
The woman may be beautiful in her own right. She does not have to have the specific traits that the poet designates.
The poet employs amazing comparisons to illustrate Shakespeare's opinion concerning hyperbolic language in love poetry. It is both unexpected and extraordinary to read a love poem that is honest and with added bonuse of Shakespeare’s literary touches.