Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 is almost a satirical version of his other sonnets: instead of describing his mistress’s perfect features and qualities, he appears to be pointing out all of her flaws and the ways in which she is not perfect. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, and like all of his sonnets, is written in 14 lines total. In form, the first 12 lines have an ABAB rhyme pattern, whereas the last two lines rhyme with each other. The content of the poem parallels the form in that during the first 12 lines in which there is every other line rhyming, the messages about all of the imperfections of his lover when a change occurs: the last two lines, both of which rhyme: rare with compare, and at that point the mood of the home changes as well. In those last two lines, Shakespeare switches from emphasizing, even mocking the qualities of his mistress to giving the message that despite the fact that she is not perfect, he truly loves her. In this sonnet, Shakespeare writes a poem that is a virtual joke when compared to the traditional romantic sonnets of the time.
In the poem, Shakespeare points out all of the ways in which his mistress is not magnificent: her eyes are on like the sun, her lips are not as red as coral, her breasts are not as white as the snow, her hair looks like wires, her cheeks are not rosy, she does not even smell good; in fact, he uses the word “reeks” about her breath, hardly a romantic description. He adds that although he loves to hear her speak, she certainly doesn’t sound as beautiful as music does. In addition, unlike the way that goddesses travel through the air, sadly, his all too human mistress walks on the ground. Nevertheless, he loves his mistress despite the fact that she does not possess all of the typical and stereotyped beautiful qualities that are used so often did romantic poetry. He loves her with her imperfections, which is actually a more realistic and profound love than one which is based on some idea of perfect beauty.
Shakespeare uses a metaphor such as “black wires grow on her head” and compares her lips to coral, even though they compare negatively, and another metaphor and comparing her voice to music although again, this is a negative comparison. It is NOT like music. There is also a simile: her eyes are nothing like the sun. There is a great deal of personification, such as eyes like the sun, lips are not like coral, breasts white like snow, wires as hair, and roses in her cheeks. In addition, all of the qualities of perfection that are named in the sonnet are traditionally symbols of love, since Shakespeare uses flowers, nature, and the elements as symbols of beauty which throughout the poem, he acknowledges that his mistress does not possess these elements.
The sonnet relates to the question of what it takes to develop a meaningful relationship with another person in several ways. In order to form a real relationship with someone, a person must overlook that person’s imperfections. Instead of focusing on the beauteous qualities that are traditionally seen as desirable in a partner, if a person wants to form a real relationship, he or she must dispense with superficial qualities and focus on the person within. Loving the outside of a person is bound to result in a relationship that lacks substance if that the only thing that is important in the relationship: outer qualities and beauty.
I found this poem very meaningful because among all of my peers, I find that there is a constant focus on how someone looks, if he or she is “hot,” if they dress in cool clothes, so that there is a group of people that is seen as really attractive and everyone wants to be with them. I also know that not all of these people are beautiful on the inside, and sometimes the people that seem uncool are actually the ones who have a lot going on inside. I conclude that relationships that are based on looks and appearance are not necessarily the ones that will be long-term ones, because if people are only concerned with appearance, that’s just not enough to hold relationships together in any meaningful way.