My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun (Sonnet 130) Essay Example
William Shakespeare, world-renowned expert on the sonnet, penned “My Mistress’ Eye Are Nothing Like the Sun,” with a seemingly very specific idea in mind. While sonnets are typically used to woo women with romance, comparing them to celestial bodies, and using other such hyperbolic rhetoric, Sonnet 130 takes the opposite approach. Shakespeare used the piece to explain his mistress is plain and ordinary, like any other woman. However, what is most endearing and more romantic than any other sonnet written before, during, or after its time, is that Shakespeare recognizes his Mistress’ flaws, and her essential humanity, but loves her in spite of them. Moreover, he seems to love her because of the endearing flaws he writes about throughout the sonnet.
Poetry can be difficult to analyze, especially when concerning Shakespeare. Sonnet 130, however, is uncharacteristically transparent. For example, one of its opening lines reads, “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red,” as he compares his mistress’ beauty to that of nature. Typically, we would hear in a sonnet that a woman’s lips were red as blood, or that of a rose. Shakespeare decides not to be so exaggerative here and instead tells the truth. His mistress’ lips are red, but coral is a deeper, possibly more beautiful red.
Another line of the poem, lending more credence to the idea that Shakespeare’s mistress is dull states, “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.” Most often, if a woman’s hair is described in a romantic sonnet, the color is compared to a beautiful or majestic animal. In this case, the woman’s hair is black and, therefore, could be compared to the feathers of a raven. Shakespeare could have compared it the beauty of night, as well. Instead he describes her hair as it is; it is black, and it is wiry. His mistress’ hair is not soft, shimmering, or comparable to any majestic animals, nor the majesty of night. He opts out of the already idealized concept of beauty to describe her as she is.
There are many other descriptions throughout the sonnet revealing Shakespeare’s mistress to be an average looking woman. He does not compare her to beautiful creatures or the glowing sun, but rather uses these references in order to explain she looks the opposite of their beauty. Despite this, we see in the line reading, “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/ As any she belied with false compare,” that Shakespeare still believes his mistress to be beautiful, and their love to be special. This line is possibly the hardest to decipher out of the entire poem. Essentially, it explains that despite his mistress’ societally standardized “flaws” he sees her as a beautiful woman, and believes their love is as special as the love between that of any man and the woman whom he is comparing to the sun, or beautiful creatures.
In sum, Sonnet 130 is about a woman of average beauty and a man who loves her. It may also be about how beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It may also be about Shakespeare’s disregard for societal standards of beauty. He flagrantly rejects the typical comparisons normally made throughout sonnets, showing his love for what she is. While this may make her appear less worthy in the eyes of others, Shakespeare ends the sonnet be reaffirming his believe their love is as true as the love between and man and woman of falsely compared beauty, showing beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as well as standardized by society.