Sonnet 130: My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun

Love frequently appears throughout Shakespeare’s sonnets, though not all of them describe it in the same honeyed fashion. In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, he turns away from certain poetic conventions, and in turn shapes a less kind, though albeit a less blinded, description of his mistress.

As you read through this sonnet, consider the difference such a description has on illustrating love. Though Shakespeare’s description here is unkind, do you find that it elevates the impact of his statement of love for his mistress? Or do you find that the dazzling descriptions of lovers found in other contemporary works is a more moving display of affection for another? Lastly, which style do you think paints a more accurate picture of how love influences us?

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 damask’d, 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.

Discussion

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