Sonnet 130

Sonnet 130: My Mistress’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun

by William 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.

Summary of Sonnet 130

  • Popularity of “Sonnet 130”: William Shakespeare, a renowned English poet, playwright, and actor, “Sonnet 130” is a remarkable piece famous on account of its themes of love and appearance. It was first published in 1609. The poem speaks about the shortcomings of the speaker’s beloved. It also illustrates how he loves her in spite of her flaws.
  • Sonnet 130”, As a Representative of Love: This poem is an expression of love; the speaker admires his beloved, despite knowing her physical flaws. He explains her physical features are “uncatchy though,” yet she is beautiful in her own way. He talks about his lips, breasts, and hair, which looks like wires sticking on her head, and her cheeks also do not meet the ideal standard of beauty. Also, he talks about her unpleasant voice and compares her stinky breath with perfume. This strange comparison shows his acceptance of her flaws. As the poem progresses, he develops this idea that we should not set high standards in love. He accepts that his mistress is not a godlike figure. She is just an ordinary woman with lots of imperfections, and he admires and loves her despite those qualities.
  • Major Themes in “Sonnet 130”: Love, appearances, and admiration are the major themes of this sonnet. The poem presents two things: the worldly standard of beauty and the poet’s definition of beauty. Throughout the poem, he talks about the physical features of his mistress that do not match the standards of beauty. She is not at all stunning or marvelous like a goddess, but he still loves and adores her. To him, she is unique and rare. That is why he does not measure his love on the worldly scale of beauty.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Sonnet 130”

Literary devices are tools used by writers and poets to convey their emotions, feelings, and ideas to the readers. Shakespeare has also used some literary devices to bring depth to this poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been discussed below.

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sounds of /b/, /w/ and /h/ in “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head”, the sound of /th/ in “Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks” and the sound of /w/ in “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /h/ in “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun” and the sound of /s/ in “As any she belied with false compare.”
  3. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

“And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, Shakespeare exaggerates the mistress’ beauty by insulting her using ordinary objects and contrasting her beauty to objects in nature.
  2. Imagery:Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things with their five senses. For example,

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.”

  1. Metaphor: It is used to compare an object or a person with something else to make meanings clear. For example, “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head”.
  2. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. Shakespeare has used this device in the opening lines of the poem such as;

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Sonnet 130”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  1. Sonnet: A sonnet is a fourteen lined poem usually written in iambic pentameter. This Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains and a couplet.
  2. Couplet: There are two constructive lines of verse in a couplet, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme. This sonnet ends with a couplet, which usually reveals the central idea of the poem.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB CDCD EFEF GG rhyme scheme.
  4. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Shakespeare has used end rhyme in the poem. For example, “sun/dun”, “rare/compare”, “white/delight” and “know/go.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are suitable in a speech or lecture to glorify the positive attributes of true love.

“And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.”