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“My Mistress’ Eyes” by William Shakespeare Critical Analysis

William Shakespeare’s “My Mistress’ eyes” jumps into the theme of loving one another’s imperfections and flaws. The poem is a sonnet that is in iambic pentameter. “The rhyme scheme of the sonnet is highly regular” (Zsoldos line 24). That is, it follows a regular rhyming pattern. The rhyme of the last two verses is characteristic of the Shakespearean sonnet. This poem talks about the special and rare love of the poet towards his lover. Though the poet describes the imperfections and flaws of his mistress, he is very clear that he loves her imperfections and flaws. The poet begins the poem with negative statements about his beloved mistress but uses positive words towards the end to show his love for her. Though the physical features, smell, voice and touch of his mistress are not flattering, but his love for her is rare and special.

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In this poem, Shakespeare compares his mistress’ features with several beautiful things in nature. He begins the poem by describing his mistress’ physical features. In the first six lines of the poem, he says that her eyes cannot be compared to the sun as they are not beautiful and glowing; her lips are not red as coral; her breasts are dark and not snowy white; her hair is not soft and sleek; and her cheeks are pale and cannot be compared to two-toned red roses. The poet describes the smell of his mistress in the seventh and eighth lines of the poem. When he describes her smell, he is quite frank that she has bad breath. When he talks about her voice in the ninth and tenth lines, he admits that he actually prefers music when compared to her voice. In the next two lines of the poem, the poet is clear that her mistress’ walk is heavy-footed as it could not be compared to that of a goddess.

When the poet describes his mistress negatively in terms of physical features, smell, voice and touch, it sounds like he is insulting her. But the tone of the poem changes in the ninth line of the poem when the poet says, “I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound” (Shakespeare lines 9-10). Here the poet gives a compliment to his mistress by saying that he likes to hear her speech even though he prefers to hear music when compared to her voice. The shift of tone in the poem reveals that the poet loves his mistress’ odd and negative attributes. In the last two lines of the poem, the poet confirms that his love for her is rare. Even though he points out all the negative attributes of his mistress, he still loves to hear her talk and thinks that his love for her is rare and special.

Normally poets praise the women they love by describing their features with exaggerated comparisons in a positive manner. But in this poem, Shakespeare does not make any exaggerated comparisons, but instead, honestly describes his mistress’s features. Actually, the poet does not want to make any false comparisons about his mistress’s features to show his tremendous love for her. He finally says that his love for her is true, rare and special even though he cannot make any false flattering comparisons about her.

When the poet describes his mistress’s features honestly in an unflattering way, he is actually not negative towards his mistress. But he declares that she is rarer and more wondrous than any woman who is flattered by the false comparisons. The poet directly uses positive words towards the end of the poem to show his sincere love for his beloved making clear that he loves her odd attributes. The poem is an honest and frank love poem that emphasizes loving one another’s physical or other imperfections and flaws. It is very clear that despite of all her defects, the poet loves her really and sincerely. In fact, the poet likes her odd and negative attributes, and his love for her is rare and special. From the poem, you can find that the poet is proud to say that his love is ‘rare’ and special even though his mistress is imperfect.

The ending phrase “I think my love as rare / As any she belied with false compare” (Shakespeare lines 13-14) reveals the actual subject of the poem. Instead of untruly admiring a love by making false comparisons, the poet wants to be honest in describing his love since appearances are not a matter where true love is concerned. When the poet says that his love for his mistress is rare, it clearly reveals that the poet wants to show his love for her only through his actions and not through false words and comparisons. The poet says that his love is ‘rare’ as he does not like to make fake comparisons like others to show his great love for his mistress.

In a conclusion, we can see how the poet feels about the theme of ‘love for a woman’. In this poem, the poet shows his high-value love for a woman with beauty defects. For him, she was a rare beauty though her features contrast with the standards of conventional beauty. Moreover, the poet’s love for her is sincere. Hence, the poet is more realistic in describing his love for her beloved without making any false comparisons. The poem reveals that love for a woman must be true irrespective of her beauty, and also shows that imperfections are not a measure of love. The poem also emphasizes that false flattering words are not necessary to show your true love towards your beloved.

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Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “My mistress’ eyes.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. 9th Edition. Eds. Alison Booth, Paul J. Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc., 2006. 1034. Print.

Zsoldos, Les. “Poetry analysis: ‘My Mistress’ Eyes are nothing like the Sun,’ by William Shakespeare.” Helium. Helium, Inc. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 8). “My Mistress’ Eyes” by William Shakespeare Critical Analysis. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/my-mistress-eyes-by-william-shakespeare-critical-analysis/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 8). “My Mistress’ Eyes” by William Shakespeare Critical Analysis. https://studycorgi.com/my-mistress-eyes-by-william-shakespeare-critical-analysis/

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StudyCorgi. "“My Mistress’ Eyes” by William Shakespeare Critical Analysis." November 8, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/my-mistress-eyes-by-william-shakespeare-critical-analysis/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“My Mistress’ Eyes” by William Shakespeare Critical Analysis'. 8 November.

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