Sonnet 130

Original Sonnet (old English) Modern English
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; Coral is far more red than her lips;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If snow is white, then her breasts are a brownish gray;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. If hairs are like wires, hers are black and not golden.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white, I have seen damask roses, red and white [streaked],
But no such roses see I in her cheeks; But I do not see such colors in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight And some perfumes give more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. Than the horrid breath of my mistress.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know I love to hear her speak, but I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound; That music has a more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go; I’ve never seen a goddess walk;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: But I know that my mistress walks only on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare And yet I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare. As any woman who has been misrepresented by ridiculous comparisons.


dun (3): i.e., a dull brownish gray.

roses damasked, red and white (5): This line is possibly an allusion to the rose known as the York and Lancaster variety, which the House of Tudor adopted as its symbol after the War of the Roses. The York and Lancaster rose is red and white streaked, symbolic of the union of the Red Rose of Lancaster and the White Rose of York. Compare The Taming of the Shrew: “Such war of white and red within her cheeks!” (4.5.32). Shakespeare mentions the damask rose often in his plays. Compare also Twelfth Night:

She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek. (2.4.118)

than the breath…reeks (8): i.e., than in the breath that comes out of (reeks from) my mistress.
As the whole sonnet is a parody of the conventional love sonnets written by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, one should think of the most common meaning of reeks, i.e., stinks. Shakespeare uses reeks often in his serious work, which illustrates the modern meaning of the word was common. Compare Macbeth:

Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds
Or memorise another Golgotha,
I cannot tell. (1.2.44)

rare (13): special.

she (14): woman.

belied (14): misrepresented.

with false compare (14): i.e., by unbelievable, ridiculous comparisons.



  1. what is the theme?
  2. What is the tone?
  3. Find a metaphor and a simile?
  4. In your opinion, is Shakespeare funny or rude?Give reasons.
  5. Shakespeare uses hyperbolic language on purpose to criticize other poets.

    Hyperbole Definition

    Hyperbole, derived from a Greek word meaning “over-casting” is a figure of speech, which involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis. For instance, when you meet a friend after a long time, you say, “Ages have passed since I last saw you”. You may not have met him for three or four hours or a day, but the use of the word “ages” exaggerates this statement to add emphasis to your wait.  Therefore, a hyperbole is an unreal exaggeration to emphasize the real situation. Some other common Hyperbole examples are given below.

    Common Examples of Hyperbole

    • My grandmother is as old as the hills.
    • Your suitcase weighs a ton!
    • She is as heavy as an elephant!
    • I am dying of shame.
    • I am trying to solve a million issues these days.

Find examples of hyperbolic language in the sonnet.

7. Draw the lady Shakespeare describes in his sonnet and post the picture in the blog.

Use thinglink to show the different lines of the poem that can be appreciated in your picture.

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