“Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare

“Sonnet 130” was written by William Shakespeare

If you are one of my students, consider the following:

  1. This poem is an example of a blason (a genre of poetry in which parts of a woman’s body are compared, successively, with favourable things through metaphors) — but it’s an unconventional, ironic blason. What’s the point of ironizing/parodying this poetic genre?

  2. Sonnets often contain a volta (a point of dramatic change). Where does the volta appear in “Sonnet 130” (i.e., where does the poem “turn”)? What formal changes accompany this change in content?



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.

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2 thoughts on ““Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare

  1. In sonnet 130, I think the volta occurs in the second last line, where it reads, “And yet, by heaven…” the mood changes from brazen judgement to an assurity that the narrator could not express his admiration for the woman any other way.

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