Sonnet 130

This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Sonnet 130” (1609) by William Shakespeare. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the poem

Title: “Sonnet 130” (1609)
Author: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is one of the most famous English playwrights and poets who ever lived. Surprisingly little is known about his life. He was born in 1564 in England, and before his death in 1613 he wrote at least 37 plays and a large number of sonnets (fourteen-line love poems written according to a strict format of rhyme and rhythm). 

In 1609, Shakespeare published a now-famous collection of 154 sonnets. The last 28 of these are addressed to a “dark lady” with whom the speaker seems to be in a sexual relationship. This is also the woman who is referred to as the “mistress” in “Sonnet 130”. It is thought that Shakespeare wrote his sonnets in the 1590s and early 1600s. 

More help

In our topic guide on William Shakespeare and his texts in general, you can find a lot of information about how to analyze the texts. You can also read about Shakespeare's historical context (the elizabethan era) and much, much more.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Irony and humor

The poem also relies on irony and humor to get its point across. By rejecting traditional poetic comparisons and claiming that his mistress cannot be described that way, the speaker seems to mock those who idealize their lovers and describe them as unreal, perfect beings. The speaker is straightforward when he claims “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (l. 1) or “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head” (l. 4). The irony makes the poem sound almost playful, as if the speaker is poking fun both at his mistress and at those who use traditional poetic comparisons.

Humor and irony make the speaker sound more...

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Sonnet 130

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