In Elizabethan Age, the sonnets had advanced into a form with new metric and rhyme scheme that was departing from Petrarchan sonnets. Yet, Elizabethan sonnets still carried the tradition of Petrarchan conceit. Petrarchan conceit was a figure used in love poems consisting detailed yet exaggerated comparisons to the lover’s mistress that often emphasized the use of blazon. The application of blazon would emphasize more on the metaphorical perfection of the mistresses due to the natural objects were created by God, hence when the mistresses were better than nature, then there would be nothing better than the mistresses.
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Sonnet 130 written by William Shakespeare developed into an anti-Petrarchan position by denying the image of Petrarchan poet’s mistresses who always were ideal and idolized. Any lover’s mistress in Petrachan poet’s sonnet would expect to have eyes that vying the sun, lips that are redder than coral, breasts as white as snow, and hair that shines. Nevertheless, the speaker created his mistress to a contradictory image of an ideal lover. The speaker insisted that his “mistress’ eyes” were “noting like the sun. Coral” was “far more red than her lips’ red” and “if snow be white,” then “her breasts” were “dun.
He also commented that “if hairs be wires, black wires” grew “on her head. ” Furthermore, her skin was dark and not smooth; her breath was unpleasant too. These descriptions summed up to an objectionable image of her, which suggested that the speaker was trying to portray his beloved to a person who was uglier than the rest of the mistresses. In addition, he described that his “mistress, when she” walked, she treaded “on the ground” which indicated his mistress was a real woman but not like the ideal goddess-like or fictional lovers that other poets created.
Petrarchan sonnets consisted of an octave and a sestet with a rhyme scheme of abbaabba cdecde where at the end of the octave, there would usually be a turn in the sonnet. On the other hand, Elizabethan sonnets consisted of three quatrains with a couplet with a rhyme scheme of ababcdcdefefgg. The couplet often served as a turn in the sonnet. In sonnet 130, its couplet served as a classical twist. The couplet was contrasting to the quatrains where he implied that his mistress was not truly ugly because she was compared with the other mistresses who were artificially created by their lovers.
It was only when comparing her to the ideal but artificial image of mistress, and then she would be ugly. The couplet distorted her image by reversing the figure that was already created by the speaker where the readers would be confused what was she really looked like. On the other hand, by remarking the mistress of the speaker was not ugly, it would imply that the ideal mistresses were not truly beautiful but were their lovers’ lie. Nevertheless, the speaker thought it was not fair to compare the mistress because every woman was unique by implying that “I think my love s rare as any she belied with false compare.
Throughout the poem, the speaker described what his mistress was not but never actually accounted what she was like. Therefore, his mistress was only used as an imagistic character. Not only that, the speaker had not shown any passion to his mistress. From beginning to end, we did not receive a clear idea whether the speaker truly loved his mistress or not. It was more likely that he used his mistress as an image to express his feeling than left her alone.