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William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 is indeed a parody. It follows all of the technical literary requirements of this type of sonnet and yet somehow, due to the content and context, reads like an anti-sonnet – in its complete disregard for, and sardonic view of, the notions of love put forward by similar English sonneteers of the era. It is a monologue about what love is not, and at the same time, what love is. Ultimately, it is a declaration that real love sees all and loves all exactly as is – raw, imperfect and unchanged. Today, this text holds as much relevance some four hundred years later, as an observation of an image-obsessed society fixated external beauty.
Without question Sonnet 130 (Appendix A) conforms to the blueprints of a true Shakespearean sonnet. It is 14 lines long and written in iambic parameter. The first 12 lines rhyme in alternating pairs and ends with a rhyming couplet so that the rhyme scheme follows the conventional ABABCDCDEFEFGG format. Each line seems to move along at an even pace each generally containing between eight and 10 syllables – keeping in time with the speaker’s matter-of-fact approach to describing his subject. The punctuation is well-placed and does not interfere with the analogies being made by the speaker.
On one hand the poem certainly meets all the criteria of the Shakespearean sonnet but at the same time seems to use the other hand to provide an obvious slap in the face to traditional sonnets by mocking the metaphors, hyperboles and similes commonly employed by other English sonneteers of the Renaissance. In The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (557) Helen Vendler observes “Shakespeare shows that the familiar resorts of contemporary love-poets – (1) comparison by simile, (2) hieraarchising, (3) valuing by a standard, (4) metaphorising – can be preposterous when called to the bench of accuracy.” For when truly, are a woman’s eyes ever really “like the sun” (line 1), lips red like “coral” (line 2) or cheeks like “roses...
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