Hello there, friends! Today, we have Emma from Miss Print chatting all about one of my favorite sonnets by William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130! After you are done reading, head on over to check out Emma’s blog and Twitter and head over to a Rafflecopter giveaway and enter for a chance to win a Shakespeare retelling of your choice!
What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the name William Shakespeare?
For me, the immediate answer is “poet.”
Considering the iambic pentameter of his plays, it makes sense that Shakespeare was also a brilliant
poet who wrote 154 sonnets
over the course of his lifetime. In each sonnet, he drew out beautiful imagery and sentiments from the
rigid form that follows a specific line structure and rhyme scheme.
One of my favorite Shakespeare sonnets, one I refer to often when trying to improve my own writing, is
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 damasked, 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.
Like the best poems, Sonnet 130 is layered. Instead of showering his mistress with false comparisons,
the narrator suggests that he loves her all the more fiercely for seeing her clearly–a beautiful thought
that is as relevant today as it would have been in Shakespeare’s own lifetime.
The interplay between what is overtly stated and what is left unsaid here works as a primer for how to
write and how to do it well. This sonnet never calls the subject of the poem beautiful or any other
niceties. Still, by the end, it’s impossible to think the narrator feels anything but a deep love for the
Sonnet 130 challenges everything readers think they know about love poems–and it does so with
humor. Being a sonnet is impressive enough, but also being funny and conversational? Being timely and
relevant while being more than four hundred years old? Astonishing.
Like a magician diverting the audience’s attention, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 is a misdirect of sorts as he
uses simple language and plain ideas to give voice to an abstract concept. And, really, isn’t that the
standard to which every poem, not to mention every writer, should strive?