Explication on Shakespeare’s Sonnet: “My Mistress’ Eyes”

12 December 2016

“My mistress’ eyes” is unlike any other sonnet about love. Normally, a love sonnet has elaborate descriptions of beauty and passion. However, Shakespeare uses literary techniques such as imagery in order to create an overall sarcastic tone, mocking these “normal” love poems. The sonnet is written in iambic pentameter and can be broken into three quatrains—which have a basic rhyme pattern of “ABAB CDCD EFEF”—followed by a couplet, which allows this sonnet to be classified as a Shakespearean sonnet. However, the imagery Shakespeare portrays in this sonnet paints two conflicting pictures of his love.

The quatrains all point out flaws in his mistress’ appearance such as her eyes and her hair. Shakespeare writes, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; / Coral is far more red than her lips’ red” (1-2). He goes to say, “her breasts are dun” (3) and that “black wires grow on her head” (4). As the sonnet progresses, readers are capable of seeing two different women: one who has rosy cheeks, a musical voice, and glides as she walks and then there is his mistress who “treads on the ground” (12) as she walks. By the end of the third quatrain, readers are lead to believe that Shakespeare does not love his mistress.

Explication on Shakespeare’s Sonnet: “My Mistress’ Eyes” Essay Example

Shakespeare uses the imagery in each line to create a bitter tone towards her, as if he is tired of her not being this ideal, picturesque woman to which he compares. However, Shakespeare writes, “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/ As any she, belied with false compare” (13-14). Here, there is a sudden shift in tone in which readers realize that Shakespeare actually understands true love. He recognizes that true love is about more than physical appearance and loves his mistress unconditionally. This sudden shift in tone also allows readers to fathom that there is a greater purpose to this sonnet.

Through this sonnet, Shakespeare satirizes the writing style in which many poets praise women with “false compare” (14). Shakespeare is mocking all the poems that have been written during his time that compare women to goddesses and put them on a pedestal. He understands that women do not necessarily have rosy red cheeks and musical voices and he accepts them for who they are, unlike society during his time and even today. Work Cited William, Shakespeare. “My Mistress’ Eyes are nothing Like the Sun.

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Explication on Shakespeare’s Sonnet: “My Mistress’ Eyes”. (2016, Dec 01). Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://newyorkessays.com/essay-explication-on-shakespeares-sonnet-my-mistress-eyes/
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