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Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare

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1 Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare
Page 296

2 Questions for thought Who is considered an “ideal beauty” in our culture? What made a woman an “ideal beauty” in Shakespeare’s time?

3 Sonnet 130 The speaker’s situation
The speaker is describing a woman he cares about. He is very realistic about her looks—she does not fit the expectations of an ideal beauty in Renaissance England.

4 Sonnet 130—poetic devices
The speaker uses imagery to describe the woman he loves. Each line (or pair of lines) contains a different image.

5 “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.”
Paraphrase: My mistress’ eyes are not bright and warm and life-giving, like the sun—rather, they are dull and expressionless.

6 “Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.”
Paraphrase: Her lips are not bright red like coral—they are more of a dull flesh-color.

7 “red sea fan coral spreads behind a golden damselfish in waters off Fiji”
From the National Geographic website:

8 From, which sells red coral jewelry

9 “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun.”
Paraphrase: Her skin is brownish, not fair and white like snow.

10 “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.”
Paraphase: Her hair is not golden and silky—it is dark, and thick and stiff like wire.

11 “I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, / but no such roses see I in her cheeks.”
Paraphrase: I have seen roses in real life—flowers of red and white—but her cheeks do not have the bloom of roses.

12 “and in some perfumes is there more delight / than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.”
Paraphrase: Perfume smells better than her breath does.

13 “I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / that music hath a far more pleasing sound.”
Paraphrase: I love to talk to her and listen to her, but her voice is not as pleasing and smooth as music.

14 “I grant I never saw a goddess go, / my mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.”
Paraphrase: I’ve admit I’ve never seen a goddess who floats above the ground, but I know that my mistress plants her feet firmly on the ground when she walks—she’s not very graceful.

15 “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare / as any she belied with false compare.”
Paraphase: Despite all this, I think the woman I love is just as special / as any other woman who is lied about with false comparisons in other poems.

16 Images/reverse comparisons in sonnet 130
Line 1: eyes not like the sun Line 2: lips not like red coral Line 3: skin not as white as snow Line 4: hair like black wires Lines 5-6: cheeks not like beautiful roses Lines 7-8: breath not like perfume Lines 9-10: voice not like music Lines 11-12: walking not graceful like a goddess

17 Main idea A woman can be loved and special without being an ideal beauty. Many poems idealizing a woman’s beauty are exaggerated and false.

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