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Shakespeare's Unconventional Declaration of Love Starting with a Banter in One of His Poems

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People communicate their love for one another in different ways. Some utilize actions while others express it through caring words. William Shakespeare, however, depicts his affection through unconventional means. In “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare declares his love for a woman in a non-traditional way.

The first sentence is the same as the title and catches the attention of the reader. “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”. (line 1) This is a very odd statement when describing the love of one’s life. The sun is generally described as bright and warm. ByShakespeare claiming the opposite, he is saying her eyes are cold and dull. This comes off as more of an insult rather than a declaration of love. Lines two through six only continue to convey a negative view of the speaker’s lover. “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”.If a man is in love, then he would usually portray the other as a beautiful person. A poet in the sixteen hundred would typically describe a pretty woman with red lips, white skin, soft and silky hair, and rosy cheeks. However, the main character is conveyed as having lackluster lips, grayish-brown skin, coarse and wiry hair, and plain cheeks. It makes one wonder why Shakespeare is describing the love of his life as unattractive.

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Other than the woman’s looks, the speaker also illustrates her other traits. “And in some perfumes, is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.” (Lines 7-8) Shakespeare then begins to describe her scent. Perfumes have a positive connotation; it is assumed that they possess an aroma that is sweet or pleasant. His mistress’ is portrayed as the opposite and is claimed to have bad breath. “I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound.” (Lines 9-10) The first compliment Shakespeare gives his lover is that he loves to hear her speak. It conveys that he likes hearing what she has to say. However, he lessens the praise by saying her voice produces a sound that is irritating. That is said through the sound of her voice differing from music; which is soothing and likable. “I grant I never saw a Goddess go: My mistress, when she walks treads on the ground.” (Lines 11-12) The main character does not walk with a certain elegance or grace. She just moves like anyone else and does not stand out in any way. It is humorous how Shakespeare describes her in such an unappealing manner.

This sonnet concludes with a shift in the final couplet. “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare”. (Lines 13-14) Despite not having features that are considered beautiful, Shakespeare has fallen in love with this woman. Men are usually smitten with a woman’s beauty. However, Shakespeare seems to love his mistress for who she is as a person. She does not need to have eyes like the sun or movement like a goddess’. He overlooks her flaws and sees something in her that no one else does. The last two lines also tell the reader that he thinks his mistress is just as magnificent as other women. The others are described with over the top comparisons that embellish how great they really are. This poet felt that it was unnecessary and took a simple approach in portraying his lover.

In “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare declares his love for a woman in a non-traditional way. Poems and other literary works contain certain ideals when it comes to conveying love. Shakespeare challenges these ideas by describing his lover in a way that conflicts with them. This out-of-the-box approach is a unique way of showing love.


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