INSTITUTO GUATEMALTECO AMERICANO
Departamento de Cursos
Javier Eduardo Aguirre, B.A.
Fourth Trimester, 2010
My Mistress ’ Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked1, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go:
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by Heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
1. Analyze the previous sonnet to determine if it follows the classical English sonnet rhyme
scheme (abab cdcd efef gg) and if it is written in iambic pentameter.
2. In the tradition of the “conceit,” or extravagant image, Elizabethan poets vied with one
another in praising the beauty of their real or imaginary beloveds. Shakespeare also
indulged in this poetic pastime, both in his sonnets and in his plays. Thus Romeo calls
Juliet “fair sun,” and likens her eye to the stars – to the disadvantage of the heavenly
lights. Therefore; in your opinion, is this poem as unflattering as it seems?
3. Remembering that Shakespeare regularly makes his summarizing point in the sonnet’s
final couplet, explain how the poet actually gets ahead of all others who strive for the
most potent way of praising their ladies.
4. Compare the tone of this sonnet with that of sonnet 18. May a poem have a playful
manner, yet a serious point? What choices of detail in word or phrase particularly suggest
the poet’s attitude toward the lady and toward the poem he is composing?
5. Would you expect the mysterious dark-haired lady to be pleased or displeased by this
little masterpiece? What details might offend her? Would the ending be powerful enough
to placate her?
1. damasked: varied, different types