Summary: The Idea Of Desirable Beauty In Shakespeare's Sonnet

Categories: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Sonnet 130, also known as “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”, mocks the conventions of the splashy and ornate, and most times gallant, sonnets in its authentic portrayal of his lover. Sonnet 130 deconstructs the idea of desirable beauty, which was standard of art and literature in general in the Victorian age. Factors stemming from the literature of ancient Greece and Rome had developed a culture of this that persisted in the practices of gracious love and aristocratic poetry in Europe, and the writing of poets such as Petrarch.

It was common to celebrate the beauty of the subject of one's adoration with references to the fascinating things naturally occurring, like bright stars or the rising sun's bright light. Shakespeare's constructed visuals were obvious choices in which the audience of this sonnet would have known well.

Shakespeare juxtaposes the hyperbole of references used by modern poets which had become cliché, boring, and unimaginative even by the Elizabethan age. This poem relates the poet's paramour to a plethora of what are considered pure beauties; every time he points to the apparent shortcomings of his mistress in such analogies; she won't ever be able to stand up to the modern world's beauties.

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The first two quatrains equate the girlfriend of the speaker with aspects of nature, including snow and coral; for the mistress, every similarity ends unattractively. The speaker professes his affection for his lover in the last couplet by announcing that he does not make any false equivalences, the suggestion being that exactly that's what other poets do.

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Shakespeare's poem attempts to do the contrary, suggesting that because of her sincere attributes, her mistress is the perfect object of his love and affection, and that she is more deserving of her devotion than the lovers of other poets who are more outlandish.

As established above, Sonnet 130 is a Satire piece. In '130' we see, 'If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head,' while in modern sense this may seem unflattering, one may argue that Shakespeare mocks this with harsh comparison of the concept of conventional 'hair standards'. Satire's concept is further reinforced by the final couplet of '130' in which the speaker presents his most digressive line: 'And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare, as any she belied with false compare.' This line casts the message for this piece, belittling other poets of the period by making wild parallels.

Many modern opinion writers thought the sonnet was only a dismissal of the mistress of the poem. In short, I think the poem is rather the opposite, and acts as encouragement. Atkins notes that many poems tend to applaud the subject of the work for qualities they just don't have.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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Summary: The Idea Of Desirable Beauty In Shakespeare's Sonnet. (2024, Feb 16). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/summary-the-idea-of-desirable-beauty-in-shakespeares-sonnet-essay

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