One would think the master of all poetry would have given his dame a greater sense of beauty, but I was shocked to find this piece of literature terribly unsympathetic and realistic. He gives her not just a bad review, but paints her in such a contrast to the ideal woman that she seems more like a pig than a swan.
But the real motivation for Shakespeare’s sonnet is to contradict and poke fun at his contemporary Petrarch, an Italian poet who created seemingly unrealistically beautiful portrayals of women such as his usual common thread, “My woman’s eyes are like the stars.” I don’t think there’s anything embarrassing with these portrayals, but it’s terribly funny to compare these brilliant poets and their ingenious portrayals of women.
Hence read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130,” and see whether you agree with his method of flattery:
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare.
Would any man, in his right mind, repeat this devastatingly funny poem to his mistress? I think not.
As I near the wedding of my brother, I think this poem is a friendly kick in the gut to Petrarch, who would always say the sweetest things about his woman in his sonnets.
It would be a painfully humorous and sarcastic joke to repeat this aloud. I believe my brother would do a better job in complimenting his lover than Shakespeare to his.
Still, it is a humorous topic to show to young literary scholars, who should probably never repeat this to their lovers, but only in healthy jest.
Leave it on your shelf, Shakespeare. I know you created many wonderful pieces, and this sonnet in particular is reserved for literary spite than romantic gestures.