Themes in Sonnet 130
Themes Examples in Sonnet 130:
"belied..." See in text (Sonnet 130)
In this final line, the speaker claims that all other female subjects of sonnets have “belied,” or slandered, his mistress with their falseness. This is a subtle criticism of the poets who write these love poems as they have created slanderously “false” paramours.
"by heaven..." See in text (Sonnet 130)
“By heaven” is an oath that parodies traditional love poetry. In a traditional sonnet, the beloved is compared to heavenly objects, or the speaker swears his binding love for the woman to heaven. Here, the speaker mocks the tradition by using this causal interjected oath; it intentionally, or comically, undercuts the speaker’s final claims that his mistress is “rare” and better than all the other women featured in sonnets.
"yet..." See in text (Sonnet 130)
The final couplet marks a turn in the poem that undermines the rest of the poem. While the reader has encountered an ordinary woman who is not strikingly beautiful (if anything she’s a bit grotesque), in these final two lines the speaker asserts that she is still “rare.” This turn suggests that it is her very ordinary, non-ethereal nature that makes her unique among the other sonnet subjects.
"speak..." See in text (Sonnet 130)
Women in Petrarchan Sonnets were traditionally silent. The sonnet consisted of the speaker talking about the woman rather than the speaker listening to them speak. Here, the speaker again breaks with the conventions of the sonnet tradition by claiming that his mistress’ voice is the thing he loves most about her, not her physical appearance.
"nothing..." See in text (Sonnet 130)
This poem famously represents an anti-blazon. The blazon tradition is a poetic trope in which the speaker fragments his lover in order to describe each part as individually perfect—eyes as bright as the sun, lips as red as a rose, skin as white as snow, etc. Here the speaker begins his catalogue of his mistress’ body parts with negation; she is “nothing” like the ideal physical element to which he could compare her. The rest of the poem follows this pattern of anti-blazon.