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Close Reading Of Shakespeare´S Sonnet 130

795 words - 3 pages

Sonnet 130 is Shakespeare’s harsh yet realistic tribute to his quite ordinary mistress. Conventional love poetry of his time would employ Petrarchan imagery and entertain notions of courtly love. Francis Petrarch, often noted for his perfection of the sonnet form, developed a number of techniques for describing love’s pleasures and torments as well as the beauty of the beloved. While Shakespeare adheres to this form, he undermines it as well. Through the use of deliberately subversive wordplay and exaggerated similes, ambiguous concepts, and adherence to the sonnet form, Shakespeare creates a parody of the traditional love sonnet. Although, in the end, Shakespeare embraces the overall Petrarchan theme of total and consuming love.
Sonnet 130 openly mocks the traditional love sonnets of the time. This is, perhaps, made most apparent through the use of subversive comparisons and exaggerated similes. The intention of a subversive comparison is to mimic a traditional comparison yet highlight the opposite purpose. Whereas his contemporaries would compare their love’s beauty to alabaster or pearls, Shakespeare notes, “If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun” (3), therefore intentionally downplaying the beauty of his mistress. Later he states, “ some perfumes there is more delight / than in the breath that from my mistress reeks” (7-8). Both of these exemplify that Shakespeare ridicules the traditional love sonnet by employing the same imagery to convey opposite intentions. Closely related to subversive comparisons, Shakespeare also makes use of exaggerated similes. Unlike his contemporaries, Shakespeare introduces his Mistress in negative conventional terms. “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun / coral is far more red than her lips” (1-2). In essence, he deliberately uses the metaphors against themselves. Her eyes are not like the sun. Her lips are nothing close to the color of coral.
Aside from subversive comparisons and exaggerated similes, Sonnet 130 is wrought with the ambiguity. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, a mistress is considered “female head of a family, household, or other establishment; a woman holding such a position in conjunction with a male counterpart” (cite). However the word mistress also connotes a woman in a sexual relationship with a man, other than his wife. In the case of Sonnet 130 it is unclear whether the Mistress is...

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