Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXXX” Analysis

Love poems are usually filled with admiration for the author and exaltation of his or her romantic feelings, or vice versa, with the pain and despair of the cruelty of love. However, Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXXX” has no such elements that make the reader doubt its sincerity. This sonnet can be perceived as an ironic parody of love poems by other Shakespearean-era authors. However, I believe that while “Sonnet CXXX” is not your typical “love” poem, it is a verse about love.

Usually, authors who devote their love poems to women describe their beauty, kindness, and tenderness with sophisticated comparisons and metaphors. Even if this verse is about heartbreak and cruel love, there is still room in it to describe the beauty and charm of a woman. However, Shakespeare uses the most common comparisons, but does not apply them to his “mistress.” Throughout the sonnet, this approach seems to be a mockery of either the woman’s appearance or the authors who use such metaphors. For example, Shakespeare (1609) says, “Coral is far redder than her lips red.” Then he describes all the features of a woman and shows that she is nothing like the way that is usually displayed in literature and songs. Her skin is not white as snow, she does not walk like a goddess, and her voice and smell are the most ordinary (Shakespeare, 1609). Thus, each line emphasizes that Shakespeare’s sonnet has nothing to do with ordinary “love” poetry.

Nevertheless, the last two lines fill the sonnet with new meaning and show the reader that the author also talks about love. Shakespeare (1609) says that even though his mistress does not have all those special features, she is still beautiful to him and in no way worse than other women described by other poets. These lines can also seem to readers as Shakespeare’s mockery of those authors who use overly romanticized comparisons to describe female beauty. As if by these lines, the author says that their approach is wrong and funny. This version of the sonnet form is typical for Shakespeare’s works since it allows the plot to be constructed in three quatrains and resolve the poem in just two lines.

However, a more appropriate explanation is that Shakespeare wants to show love as it is in real life, precisely not ideal but still beautiful. This vision of a woman is more truthful and closer to readers, since beauty is diverse, and few women have white skin, scarlet lips, or other idealized features of appearance. Consequently, although the author does not use the typical characteristics of love poems, the last two lines reveal his tender admiration for her imperfect woman and fill every line with romantic feelings.

In conclusion, Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXXX” is not a typical “love” poem as it has not had a distinct motive and characteristic of the genre. However, the theme of the sonnet demonstrates that this verse is about love. Shakespeare talks about feelings for an ordinary woman who does not coincide with the image of an ideal object of admiration, but this does not make her any worse in the eyes of a loving man. At the same time, although the description of a woman is neither flattering nor beautiful, it is also filled with love. This feeling is revealed by the last two lines of the sonnet, and also shows that a man’s true passion is manifested in the fact that he sees his beloved woman as she is without any embellishments.


Shakespeare, W. (1609). Sonnet CXXX. Web.

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