Sonnet No. 130 is an unconventional sonnet which belongs to Shakespeare’s Dark Lady series, and no doubt, it is extraordinary and differs largely in conception, thought and approach from other conventional or traditional Elizabethan sonnets which were mostly written on the theme of human love.

Sonnet 130 is quite original and exceptional. The poet have expressed his irresistible attachment to his mistress who does not possess any physical charm like other ladyloves. Here the poet refers to some elements of feminine beauty a fair complexion, lustrous eyes, deep red lips, snow white breasts, rosy cheeks, a pleasant voice, a sweet breathe and a goddess like movement; these are taken normally as essential to feminine beauty and charm. But the poet’s mistress is lacking in all these requirements. She has nothing to attract that would attract or seduce other male lovers, yet the poet loves her much more than others knowing too well whatever flaw she possess.

This kind of theme is very rare in Elizabethan love poetry and stands out differently from the common theme of love. There is no idealistic yearning for one who is all beauty and grace. The sonnet is thus a satire on the Petrarchan praise of the charms of the beloved. It was a practice of the Elizabethan poets to compare the hairs of the beloved to the wires, usually golden wires which implies a contrast with black wires. It refers to extravagant hair style adopted by fashionable ladies of that time: “What guile is this…/ She doth attire under a net of gold…” (Spenser’s Amoretti:37)

The black complexion of the poet’s beloved has greater sensory pleasure. The word “reek” has an unpleasant suggestion; it suggests nasty smell . it is not a natural word as some commentators believe. This may be taken as a parody of romantic description: “From her sweet breathe their sweet smells do smell” (Constable’s Diana). The poet admits that he has never seen a goddess go as painted by the other Elizabethan love poets. His beloved is an ordinary woman who walks on the earth. His mistress is a down to earth woman, not the sort of idealized fiction imagined by other love poets. So the poet writes: ” I think my love as rare/ As any she belied with false compare”.

In Shakespeare there is an exploration of new possibilities; love has been liberated from its nominal ” Two loves I have of comfort and despair” gives the key to the whole sequence. First his “guiding star of virtuous love” is not Laura, nor a Beatrice but a young man, his friend. Secondly, he loves a lady who is not traditionally beautiful. Shakespeare suggests the contrast between appearance and reality. The poet argues that the lady’s black appearance cannot be counted beautiful but of course blackness has age old associations with evil but like most women her appearance owes nothing to art and therefore gives her a beauty of integrity and purity of character.

The Sonnet 130 marks a genuine excellence of literary art. The analogies drawn by the poet are precise, but quite clear and the subtle touch of wit marks them particularly impressive. Some expressions, such as “breasts are dun”, “roses damask’d”, “red and white” and so on are somewhat uncommon, but the sonnet presents a realistic tone and no idealistic presentation of his mistress. There is a mixture of satire and seriousness in the enumeration of the items of beauty. The final couplet gives a complimentary twist to the negative impact of the quatrains.

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