Explication of Sonnet 130 in Comparison with Epithalamion

Explication of Sonnet 130 in Comparison with Epithalamion

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"Sonnet 130," by William Shakespeare, is probably a mockery of love poems of his era which focus mainly on comparing the loved one to nature and heavenly characteristics. An example of such poems is "Epithalamion," by Edmund Spenser, which sticks to the conventionality of it's time. Shakespeare's style used conveys his love for his "mistress" in an honest and sincere way without "false compare," which makes it more acceptable than the poems of his time. He does not in anyway think of his love as a goddess or a heavenly creature, but in spite of that, his love "as rare," which makes it realistic and charming at the same time.

Shakespeare starts off the sonnet by describing his mistress' eyes as being "nothing like the sun." In his time comparing women's eyes to things of brightness and shininess, such as the sun, was a very common thing as noticed in Spenser's poem; "Her goodly eyes like sapphires shining bright." Shakespeare's mistress' lips have a far more faded red color than the color of Coral. Unlike Spenser's; who has "lips like cherries charming men to bite." Spenser claims his loved one's breasts are like "a bowl of cream uncurdled," which was another common practice; comparing a female's breasts to bright white things, such as snow. However, Shakespeare questions the fact that his mistress' breasts are dun colored; which again shows how his techniques stray away from traditionalism of his time. He also compares her hair to black wires, showing how unsmooth it looks and feels. Often around that era women's hair was compared to golden wires. The comparison here is not surprising to a reader of that time; it is shocking because of the fact that the wires are black.

Shakespeare goes on to saying that he has seen beautiful roses before, but he sees none on his mistress' cheeks. This is a contrast to Spenser's claim that "red roses flush up in her cheeks." Another commonly used comparison in poems of that time was that of roses to cheeks; which referred to youth and beauty. Traditionally during these days, the beloved's smell was, supposedly, better than any fragrant or perfume. Shakespeare admits that he has smelled perfumes that could not have been more delightful to his senses; saying they are better than the smell that "from [his] mistress reeks.

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Often the lover's voice was described as pleasant, smooth, and charming. Shakespeare states that he loves to listen to his lover speak. However, he goes on to saying that music has a far better delightful sound. The two statements express the opposites of their meanings. It is tempting to read it as if he finds his lover's voice better than music; which gives it a stronger twist and a better implication. He is saying that he loves to hear her speak although he knows very well that her voice is not the best of voices, and that music definitely has a far better sound. This gives the sonnet its own unique sincere sweetness.

Women's description as goddesses and heavenly creatures was also another commonly used comparison. Shakespeare realizes that his love does not in anyways resemble a goddess. He makes it clear that when she walks, her feet touch the ground. This is contradictive to how goddesses are supposed to walk. They fly, keeping their feet from ever touching the ground. He stays honest about how he sees his mistress; pointing out all of her average human features.

Shakespeare's beloved is not a goddess. She touches the ground when she walks. Her eyes do not look like the sun. Her lips are of a faded red color. Her breasts are not as white as snow; but dun. Her hair is not smooth and silky. Her cheeks are not red. Her breath reeks. Her voice does not have a pleasing sound. However, despite all of his mistress' flaws, his love for her could not be any greater, or "rare[r]." She is physically unattractive, yet she is very irresistible in his eyes.

Shakespeare's techniques most definitely do not remain faithful to his era's conventional techniques. Unlike Spenser, who goes on describing and--for the most part and obvious--falsely flattering his lover, Shakespeare honestly evokes how he views his mistress. His description is realistic. It does not throw the reader off by getting them to think that the beloved is some kind of a perfect creature that no human can measure up to or resemble. It also has a twist to it, which gives the sonnet a unique flow and keeps it from being tedious and uninteresting.

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