Shakespeare Sonnet 130

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Comment that the sonnet 130 of Shakespeare is an unconventional poem. Most of the sonnet sequences in Elizabethan England were modelled after that of Petrarch. Petrarch’s famous sonnet sequence was written as a series of love poems to an idealized and idolized mistress, Laura. In those sonnets Petrarch praises her beauty, her worth, and her perfection. He has used an extraordinary variety of metaphors, largely based on natural beauties. But in Shakespeare’s day these metaphors had already become cliché. But they were still accepted as the technique for writing love poetry. The result was that those love poems tended to make high idealizing comparisons between nature and beloved. Such comparisons, taken literally are sometimes very ridiculous. This sonnet no: 130 plays an elaborate joke on the convention of love poetry common in those days. In many ways Shakespeare’s sonnets subvert and reverse the conventions of the Petrarchan love sequence. This sonnet is written not to a perfect woman, but to an admittedly imperfect woman. Sonnet no: 130 mocks the typical Petrarchan metaphors by presenting a speaker who decides to tell the truth. He begins his description of his mistress denying the conventional beauties in her: “My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun”

This is only the beginning of a series of simile and metaphor. He quickly switches to many comparisons to describe her plain and down to earth beauty. The coral lips, the snowy white breasts, golden wires are all conventional beauties which the poet denies in her. To his view she appears to be very ordinary, even ridiculous: “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” It is to be noted that many important Elizabethan sonneteers including Shakespeare have used such conventional metaphors. Spenser in his Amoretti sonnet 9 compares his mistress’s eyes with sun. In the same anthology, in sonnet no 37 he...
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