What is the parody in Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
In Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130," the author parodies the traditional love sonnet by turning the conventions of beauty and love upside down. Instead of comparing his lover to the sun or other beautiful things, he compares her to unflattering objects and points out her imperfections. The sonnet's parody is a statement against the standard conventions of beauty in literature and society.
Detailed answer:

In Shakespeare's "Sonnet 130," the parody lies in the fact that the speaker's lover is not the typical idealized beauty that poets of the time would write about. Instead, Shakespeare deliberately uses unflattering comparisons and imagery to describe her physical appearance. The sonnet can be read as a satirical response to the conventions of love poetry during the Elizabethan era, which often relied on hyperbolic language and exaggerated metaphors to describe a lover's beauty.

The first quatrain begins with the speaker's declaration that his mistress's eyes are nothing like the sun, which is a common and exaggerated comparison for beautiful eyes in love poetry. Instead, her eyes are "dull" and "nothing like the sun." The next few lines go on to describe other physical features that deviate from the typical standards of beauty, including her hair, cheeks, and breath.

The parody in "Sonnet 130" lies in Shakespeare's subversion of the traditional love poem. By rejecting the conventions of idealized beauty, he is not only critiquing the clichés of his time but also celebrating his lover's unique qualities. The sonnet serves as a reminder that true love should not be based solely on superficial appearances but rather on an appreciation for one's individuality and imperfections.

Moreover, Shakespeare's use of the sonnet form itself can also be seen as a parody of conventional love poetry. The sonnet was a popular form during the Elizabethan era, particularly for love poetry, and it typically followed a strict rhyme and meter scheme. In "Sonnet 130," Shakespeare purposely deviates from this form, further emphasizing his rejection of the traditional norms of love poetry.

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