Provide a critical appreciation of Shakespeare's Sonnet 130.

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Sonnet 130 is one of Shakespeare's well-known sonnets also called My Mistress' Eyes . He popularized the Elizabethan sonnet which has a different emphasis from the original sonnet form which Petrarch favored. Instead of the Petrarchan or Italian sonnet, the Elizabethan or Shakespearean sonnet has three quatrains (four lines each)...

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followed by a concluding rhymingcouplet

In My Mistress' Eyes, Shakespeare deliberately mocks the traditional love poem although he uses exaggeration in equal measure whilst trying to give an objective account. However, he seems to exaggerate his lover's faults not her qualities. The eyes have long been written about but Shakespeare begins his sonnet saying that her "eyes are nothing like the sun" setting the reader up for this seemingly cruel and unflattering description. All the stereotypical female attributes such as the lips, the cheeks, the hair and the breasts have attention drawn to them but they leave the reader with a visual image of an ungainly woman with very little to admire. Even her breath "reeks," although this can be modified by the reference to perfume suggesting that it is not necessarily that her breath smells unpleasant but it certainly doesn't smell sweet whereas presumably in any other situation, the woman's breath would gratify the senses. Certainly, in poetry, the poet is unlikely to draw attention to her shortcomings.  

It seems that Shakespeare uses this sarcastic tone to ridicule the insincerity of more traditional sonnets which have ridiculous notions about a woman's virtue. He parodies the style of commenting on his lover's features but surprises the reader with his rude and unkind comparisons. She cannot sing and is certainly not dainty and light of foot. However, he does redeem himself when in the couplet he admits that she is "rare" and it would be unreasonable to compare her to anyone because her beauty is immeasurable and any comparison misleading or "false." In discussing the theme of love then it is apparent that Shakespeare intends for the reader to grasp an understanding of beauty and love as far more than physical appearance. 

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Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130" is a parody of other typical sonnets  that made over-the-top, flowery comparisons of beauty to the poets' beloved.  Shakespeare employs many of these comparisons in his poem:  comparing eyes to the sun, snowy white complexions, roses in cheeks, perfumed breath, goddess-like attributes; but the difference is that Shakespeare claims his mistress has none of these attractive features.  In fact, in lines such as "If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun" the reader learns that the very opposite is true. 

Shakespeare uses the typical conventions to poke fun at his contemporaries.  Of course, his mistress has none of those prized features, but Shakespeare praises her for different, more important reasons in the final lines, "And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare as any she belied with false compare (lines 13-14).  In the end, any false comparisons for the sake of poetry would be meaningless.  His mistress' unique qualities are what endear her to him. 

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Write an analysis of Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare.

 “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. 

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Please provide an analysis of William Shakespeare's Sonnet 130.

William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130” or “My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun” is what is sometimes called an “anti-Petrarchan sonnet.”

It is in the form of a traditional English or Shakespearean sonnet, consisting of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter rhymed abab cdcd efef gg.

Thematically, the first three quatrains compare his mistress unfavourably to the idealized woman of the Italian sonnet tradition. The comparison is intended to not to insult his mistress, but instead to highlight the complete unreality of the idealized woman of the sonnet convention.

In the final couplet, the narrator asserts that he loves his mistress even though she has normal human imperfections and that the comparison with an unreal ideal is unreasonable.

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