“Sonnet 130”: True Love in the Time of Shakespeare

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Consie Lozano

Love is often the theme in sonnets. This kind of lyrical poem flourished during the Elizabethan Age. One of the best-known sonneteers is William Shakespeare. He wrote 154 sonnets, which were published as “SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS” in 1609. Out of the 154, “Sonnet 130” is the most famous about love. In this poem, the poet shows that true love goes beyond physical beauty. Shakespearean sonnet is written in three quatrains and a couplet. The quatrains lay down the conflicts and a couplet offers the resolutions. “Sonnet 130” compares the poet's mistress to images normally associated with beauty during the Elizabethan period. In the first line, for instance, he compares her to the sun: “My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun”. Then, he goes on by describing her as someone with no coral red lips, dun breasts, black-wired hair, no rosy cheeks and no sweet-smelling breath. The mistress beauty is in conflict with the ideal beauty conventions of the Elizabethan society. Furthermore, with the use of similes, it can easily be discerned what the poet means. For example, the eyes are compared to the sun. The sun is bright and sparkling, which the eyes must also be. However, the mistress eyes are not as radiant and as glowing like the sun. In the couplet, the poet uses another simile to resolve the conflict: “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare” (line 13). Although his mistress is ordinary looking, for him she is special. He believes that her beauty is incomparable to others. Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets are interwoven sequences about a young man and an older woman. The first 126 sonnets are about the young man and the poem’s speaker’s love affairs while the remaining 28 are about the “relationship between the same speaker and an apparently sexually passionate woman of unconventional appearance and morals…” (Hyland 149). “Sonnet 130”, in particular, is important to the whole sequence. It provides the reader an idea on the mistress’ appearance. Also, it...
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