Sonnet 130 (My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun) is one of William Shakespeare‘s most popular poems. In this poem, Shakespeare makes a departure from the conventional practice of extolling the apple of one’s eyes. What a splendid example of thinking out of the box, isn’t it? Let’s explore the summary, analysis, theme, and rhyme scheme of My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun in more details.
William Shakespeare’s My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun Summary
In William Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 (My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun), the speaker compares his beloved to a number of things and always places her a step behind them. He compares different parts of his mistress’ body with different objects.
He says his mistress’ eyes are not like the sun and her lips are not as red as coral. Unlike the white snow, the woman’s breasts are dull greyish-brown, and her hair is black. He has seen colorful roses in red and white but he promises that he has never seen such beautifully colored cheeks of his mistress. The speaker further mentions that there are some perfumes which are more delightful than his mistress’ breath.
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Furthermore, he states that he would love to listen to his mistress speak though he knows her voice is not as pleasing as music. Moreover, he doesn’t like to call his beloved a goddess because she is not different from any ordinary human being who tread on earth while walking. After revealing all this truth about his mistress, the speaker then argues that his love for her is as rare as the real presence of a woman whom men eloquently describe through false comparisons.
Analysis of William Shakespeare’s My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun; What is Its Rhyme Scheme?
Like his other sonnets, William Shakespeare’s sonnet 130, My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, has a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. Through this sonnet, the speaker defends his love by revealing all the truth about his mistress. His aim in taking this risk seems to be adoring the internal beauty, not the external, of his mistress.
Shakespeare’s sonnet number 130 begins with “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;/ Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.” Sun is the source of light and by degrading his mistress’ eyes in comparison to the sun, the speaker means to say that her eyes are not as sparkling as the sun. If you remember, Robert Burns claims, his love is “like a red red rose” which is nothing more than an overstatement. Here, the speaker’s mistress’ lips are not even as red as coral.
“If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun” means she is not required to have breasts as white and pure as snow, at least for the speaker. In his poem, There is a Garden in Her Face, Thomas Campion exaggerates that rose and white lilies grow on his beloved’s face. In contrast, Shakespeare does not see any roses in his mistress’ cheeks. Or should we say, he does not tell lie. People tend to exaggerate the beauty of their loved ones in their romantic relationship but the speaker of My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun deals with the issue of love realistically.
He further adds, “And in some perfumes is there more delight/ Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.” This statement does not mean that he does not like the breath of his mistress. Instead, it just means there perfumes smell more delightful than her breath, which is true. Some people tend to compare their beloved’s voice with that of a cuckoo but that does not work at the realistic ground. Despite the fact that music has far more pleasing sound, the speaker of Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 says he loves to hear his mistress speak. Moreover, Shakespeare does not also compare his mistress with the almighty goddess because he has always seen her walk on the ground.
In the final couplet, the speaker swears in the name of heaven and believes his love is too rare. In fact, his love for his mistress is “as rare/ As any she belied with false compare.” In reality, there is actually no woman as beautiful as roses, as sparkling as the sun, as pleasing in sound as music, etc. If someone compares his mistress with what Shakespeare does not like to compare, that’s just a trick to win her heart and nothing more than that.
Though she fails in all these external comparisons, the speaker’s mistress is more beautiful than all those objects from inside. Hence, Shakespeare advocates for inner beauty rather than the external. It means one’s outer appearance does not really matter but what is inside one’s heart matters most.
What is the Theme of My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun?
William Shakespeare’s sonnet 130, My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun has themes of beauty, love, appearance, etc.
- Beauty – Beauty is the primary theme of the poem My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun. According to Shakespeare, what appears to be is not always what is. Hence, he argues that if one’s heart is beautiful, the appearance does not really matter.
- Love – According to Shakespeare’s sonnet My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun, love should be unconditional. Even after pointing out all the defects of the woman in comparison to other things, the speaker’s love for his mistress does not decrease.
Listen to the recitation of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun!