My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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Shakespeare's sonnet "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" is a poem about a man's love for an imperfect woman. He realizes that his woman pales in comparison to a god or other extravagant things, but his love is "rare," extraordinary. His love is true love for an earthly being, not a god or goddess.

        In the first and title line of the poem, Shakespeare compares his mistress (a woman who rules others, and not a woman who has extramarital sex with a man) with the sun. This sets the tone for the rest of the poem, a tone of sincerity and mockery. He says her eyes "are nothing like the sun," which might seem horrible, should translate literally. Creating a joke out of the idea that someone might actually compare a woman's eyes to the sun, Shakespeare mocks many common comparisons of his time. "If hair be wires, black wires grow on her head" illustrates this idea more clearly.

During Shakespeare's time, it was common to compare a woman's hair to golden wire. The comparison means to flatter the female subject of the poetry, but, if taken literally, would create a disturbing, Medusa like image. He also says "her breasts are [a brownish color]." Many poets equated a woman's breasts to the whiteness of snow, but Shakespeare will not allow these unattainable comparisons to detract from his love.

        Shakespeare also reveals his love in his perceived insults. "I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / that music hath a far more pleasing sound;" He still loves to hear her speak, although he knows that music should bring more pleasure. Poets of the time would say she sings when she speaks, but Shakespeare continues to poke fun at this common hyperbole.

Shakespeare also continues to accentuate...