My Thoughts on “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” Gabrielle Willis Dr. Ingo Stoehr English 1302. V99 27 February 2013 Outline I. Introduction II. Purpose a. Love Parody b. To show he loves her III. Form c. Sonnet d. Iambic Pentameter e. “Turn” f. Alternating pairs g. Couplet Conclusion IV. Content h. Description i. Comparison j. Satire k. Hyperbole of the Allusion V. Conclusion William Shakespeare was a well known poet and play writer who lived from 1564-1616. In 1609, He wrote the poem, My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, Sonnet 130.
In the poem, Shakespeare describes the woman he loves, in a way that would seem not as complimentary as Petrarchan sonnets would have been. The Dark Lady, who is featured in this poem, is also featured in sonnets 127-154, but this time there is a twist. At first, Shakespeare sounds critical of his mistress, but in the last two lines of the poem, he talks about how he genuinely loves her. This poem can be taken the wrong way at first, but with a closer look at purpose, form, and content, the meaning of this poem becomes much clearer. Purpose This poem is a parody to the Petrarchan sonnets. The denotative meaning of arody is a humorous or satirical imitation of a piece of literature or writing (Dictionary. com), and that is exactly what he does here. Shakespeare’s goal was to “poke fun” at the love poems of his time. Petrarchan poems used worn out cliches such as “eyes like the sun” and “skin as white as snow”. I am guessing that Shakespeare was tired of hearing unreal comparisons of women to things in nature. As the last line of the sonnet states “As any she belied with false compare”. He wrote this sonnet to give a realistic comparison of a beautiful woman, without all of the exaggeration and allusions used in Petrarchan sonnets.
Shakespeare’s purpose was to show that a woman did not have to fit the mold that Petrarchan poems had created for women, to be beautiful. According to him, the dark lady featured in this sonnet, as well as many other sonnets, is beautiful in her own way and that he loves her as much as any other man loves a woman. This sonnet reminds me of the saying “she may not be perfect, but she is perfect for me! ” Form The Shakespearean sonnet is named after the poet and play writer, William Shakespeare. The sonnets are fourteen lines long and consist of three quatrains with alternating rhyme and a concluding couplet.
The English sonnet has the simplest form of all sonnets. (www. sonnets. org). In this poem, as in many of Shakespeare’s poems, the volta is placed in the ninth line. The volta is the turn, shift, or point of dramatic change in a sonnet. This sonnet is written in iambic pentameter. Meter is a pattern of syllables in a line of poetry. The pattern of syllables can go from unstressed to stressed, or stressed to unstressed. Syllables can be paired two or three at a time depending on stresses in a sentence. (iambicpentameter. et) Two or three syllables paired together are called a foot. An unstressed/stressed foot is known as an iamb, and that is where the term iambic in iambic pentameter comes from. So, in each line of this sonnet, there is five feet of unstressed then stressed syllables. The iambic pentameter can be easily demonstrated in line three of sonnet 130, “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun” if the reader dissects the syllables like this, “If SNOW/ be WHITE/ why THEN/ her BREASTS/ be DUN. ” Alternating rhyme in this poem is abab cdcd efef gg. “Sun” at the end of line one, hymes with “dun” at the end of line three, while “red” in line two rhymes with “head” in line four. Lines thirteen and fourteen change the pattern because they are a couplet instead of a quatrain. “Rare” and “compare” are the end words on the last two lines. A quatrain is a stanza that has four lines of verse, while a couplet only has two lines of verse. Lines one through four are a quatrain, as well as five through eight, and nine through twelve. Even though the last two lines of the sonnet are a couplet, the volta starts halfway through the last quatrain instead of in the couplet like I would expect it to.
Content Shakespeare describes his dark lady in Sonnet 130, but not in the typical way one would expect a love poem to be written (Shmoop Editorial Team). After extensive research, I have come to the conclusion that the Dark Lady might be African American or of a dark skinned origin. In the first line, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, he is using satirical imitation of the cliche “eyes like the sun”. He is not degrading his mistress, only dismissing the idea that she has eyes like the sun.
The quote “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red/ If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;” makes sense if she is a dark-skinned woman because African Americans do not have red lips or white breasts, but that does not make them any less beautiful. “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head,” just simply states that she has black hair instead of blond. People with darker complexions, normally have naturally dark hair, but they can still be extraordinary. “And in some perfumes is there more delight/ Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. Prior to the 1850’s, toothpaste was more like a powder than a paste. Now days, toothpaste has scents to help keep our breath from smelling treacherous but during Shakespeare’s time, that was not a necessity. The word reeks may not have been meant to have a negative connotation. Shakespeare might have only been trying to say that perfume smells better than her breath, instead of saying her breath reeks. “I grant I never saw a goddess go;/ My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:” Shows that she does not think of herself as more important than everybody else.
She stays on ground level right beside him, where she should be. “My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” was designed to be a satirical imitation of a Petrarchan love sonnet. Shakespeare used this sonnet to describe a beautiful lady in a way that made her seem realistic. He disbanded the idea of the ridiculous allusions that were used in other love sonnets, to show that a woman does not have to fit into specific categories to be good-looking. The sonnet contained fourteen lines consisting of three quatrains and a couplet with the volta being placed in the ninth line.
Initially, one might think that this poem is downgrading to the woman, but in reality it is complimenting the woman and dismissing the exaggerations that were used to describe other women. Work Cited Burgess, Anthony. Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare’s Love-Life. New York: W. W. Norton & , 1964. Print. Grace, Dominick. "Literary Contexts In Poetry: William Shakespeare's "My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun. " Literary Contexts In Poetry: William Shakespeare's 'My Mistresses' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun' (2006): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 11 Feb. 2013. Iambic Poet. Iambic Pentameter. 2013. Web. 1 Feb 2013. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia Of Literature. Merriam Webster, 1995. Print. Miller, Nelson. Basic Sonnet Forms. Sonnet Central. Web. 25 Feb 2013. Shmoop Editorial Team. Sonnet 130. Shmoop University, Inc. , 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 22 Feb 2013. "Sonnets by William Shakespeare. " Poetry Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 98. Detroit: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009. 213-350. Literature Criticism Online. Web. 10 Feb 2013. Steele, Felicia Jean. Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 130’. The Explicator 62. 3 (2004): 132+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. Whitney, Taylor. Sonnet 130. Wordpress. com. 16 Oct 2012. Blog. 24 Feb 2013.