An Explication of "My mistress' eyes"

Essay by jordan09 July 2004

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William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616. He was an English poet, dramatist, and actor. He is thought of as the greatest dramatist of all time. "During [his] lifetime, his plays were mentioned and imitated as often as those of any of his contemporaries" (Neilson & Thorndike). Shakespeare's sonnets were published in 1609, and he wrote a total of 154 sonnets. All of his sonnets have some relation to people he knew. The identities of these people are still open for debate. His sonnets express strong feeling and follow a very artistic form. In Shakespeare's 130th sonnet, "My mistress' eyes," (rpt. in Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson, Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense, 8th ed. [Fort Worth: Harcourt, 2002] 885), he describes a mistress that is far less than perfect, but he loves her regardless. In this sonnet, he definitely uses strong expressions in a sarcastic way.

"My mistress' eyes", sonnet 130, has fourteen lines. The rhyme scheme of this sonnet is ababcdcdefefgg. The last two lines are the rhyming couplet. Although this sonnet follows the normal pattern of a sonnet, this one is rather different in content. According to the lit finder in The Alabama Virtual Library, most Renaissance sonneteers, such as Edmund Spenser and Philip Sidney, wrote about blonde ladies with milky white complexions. However, Shakespeare's describes a different view about love in his "My mistress' eyes." In this sonnet, he portrays love and beauty as something that is not just skin deep, but something that comes from the heart.

In line one of the sonnet, Shakespeare claims that his "mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" (1). This opening statement sets the mood of the poem, which is a criticizing one. Next, Shakespeare describes his mistress' lips. He does this by portraying...