Shakespeare Sonnet 130 Analysis By Rhonda Baringer
Title - Consider the title and make a prediction about what the poem is about. “My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun” Shakespeare’s sonnets do not have a title. Most scholars refer to the first line of the sonnet as the title. The “title” of the sonnet compares a woman’s eyes to the sun, which would normally mean that her eyes are bright and shiny. However, the mistress’ eyes are not like the sun. Based on the “title, ” this sonnet is about a woman that a man does not like.
Paraphrase – Write what the poem is about, literally, in your own words. Look for complete thoughts (sentences may be inverted) and look up unfamiliar words. SONNET 130 PARAPHRASE My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; My mistress's eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips' red; Coral is far more red than her lips; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If snow is white, then her breasts are a brownish gray; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. If hairs are like wires, hers are black and not golden. I have seen roses damask'd, red and white, I have seen damask roses, red and white [streaked], But no such roses see I in her cheeks; But I do not see such colors in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight And some perfumes give more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. Than the horrid breath of my mistress. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know I love to hear her speak, but I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; That music has a more pleasing sound. I grant I never saw a goddess go; I've never seen a goddess walk; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: But I know that my mistress walks only on the ground. And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare And yet I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare. As any woman who has been misrepresented by ridiculous comparisons
For your paraphrase, read the modern translation and then write a paragraph about telling what this sonnet is about. The speaker of the sonnet describes the woman he loves. He makes multiple comparisons of her to things like the sun, coral, and roses. She does not compare to those beautiful things. She is not as pretty. He also says she does not have pretty skin or hair, and she has bad breath. He says she is not a goddess but a real woman walking on earth. In the last two lines, he says he loves her and doesn’t try to falsely compare her to things that she is not like.
Connotation - Examine the poem for meaning beyond the literal. Look for literary elements such as figurative language, imagery, and sound devices. You are required to analyze the structure of the sonnet as one of your examples AND then choose TWO other literary elements. Simile Structure Imagery Metaphor Personification Allusion Diction (use diction to determine tone)
Sonnet Structure Shakespeare’s sonnets are almost all constructed from three quatrains, which are four-line stanzas, and a final couplet composed in iambic pentameter - lines ten syllables long, with accents falling on every second syllable Example - “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? The rhyme scheme (or end rhyme pattern) is abab cdcd efef gg.
Connotation – Structure – Focus on what each quatrain and the couplet contribute to the meaning and label the rhyme scheme. My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; (a) Coral is far more red than her lips' red; (b) If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; (a) If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head(b). I have seen roses damask'd, red and white, (c) But no such roses see I in her cheeks; (d) And in some perfumes is there more delight(c) Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. (d) I love to hear her speak, yet well I know(e) That music hath a far more pleasing sound; (f) I grant I never saw a goddess go; (e) My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: (f) And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare(g) As any she belied with false compare. (g) Quatrain 1 – The first quatrain compares the woman’s physical appearance to the sun, coral, snow, and wires (golden wires used for hair nets). None of the woman’s physical attributes are as lovely. Quatrain 2 - The second quatrain again compares the woman’s cheeks to roses and her breath to perfume, but they do not measure up. Her cheeks are pale and her breath smells. Quatrain 3 – The woman’s voice does not sound like beautiful music. The woman is no goddess. Couplet – The three quatrains show that the speaker does not love the woman or like the way she looks. However, the twist in the couplet is that the man sees that his love has faults but he loves her anyway.
Connotation #2 – Second Example Simile “My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; ” (line 1) In this simile, the mistress’ eyes are being compared to the sun. The sun creates the image of something bright and shiny. However, since the mistress’ eyes are “nothing” like sun, her eyes are the opposite of bright and shiny. The speaker’s use of the simile indicates that the woman’s eyes are just plain and ordinary or nothing special.
Imagery “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” (line 4). The wires during Shakespeare’s time period were a common image. The wires refer to golden wires used to make hair nets for women’s intricate hair designs. The imagery of the wires refers to golden hair. However, the mistress does not have lovely golden hair. She has ordinary black hair.
Attitude – TONE - Examination of diction, images, and details suggests the speaker's attitude toward the subject of the sonnet. Diction such as nothing, dun, wires, reeks in the first twelve lines indicate a mocking tone. The first twelve lines humorously make fun of his love’s appearance. Diction such as love and rare in the couplet indicate that the speaker’s tone is sincere and genuine. Use your tone words!
Shift - Watch for the following keys to shifts: • key words, (but, yet, however, although) • punctuation (dashes, periods, colons, ellipsis) • stanza divisions • changes in line or stanza length or both • irony • changes in sound that may indicate changes in meaning • changes in diction v Sonnets have three quatrains that usually present three examples, ideas, or explanations of a concept or idea. v The couplet plays a pivotal role, usually arriving in the form of a conclusion, amplification, or even refutation of the previous three stanzas. v The shift happens after line 12 or in the couplet.
Shift - Watch for the following keys to shifts: • key words, (but, yet, however, although) • punctuation (dashes, periods, colons, ellipsis) • stanza divisions • changes in line or stanza length or both • irony • changes in sound that may indicate changes in meaning • changes in diction Sonnet 130 shifts at line 13 or at the couplet. The shift is indicated by the indented lines, the change in rhyme scheme, and the change in tone. “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare (f) As any she belied with false compare. ” (f) The first twelve lines compare the mistress unfavorably with nature’s beauties, but the concluding couplet swerves in a different direction. The tone changes from mocking to genuine and sincere. The couplet indicates that the speaker actually does love his mistress in spite of her ordinary appearance or her flaws.
Theme - What is the poem saying about the human experience, motivation, or condition? Shakespeare is making fun of people’s obsession with looks. People cannot possibly live up to a false expectation of perfect beauty. People should love one another for who they are, not for the way the look. The theme should always be written as a complete sentence.
Theme - Now look at theme again, but this time on an interpretive level. What insight into the play, Hamlet, does the sonnet give? “My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun” This sonnet is related to both love and beauty, which will appear in Hamlet. I think since this sonnet is about how people can describe the people they love falsely and not truly love them, I think that perhaps Hamlet may feel like someone does not love him or he may be suspicious of someone’s relationship.