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My Mistress' Eyes...by William Shakespeare

            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 damasked, 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.
             In his poem, "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun," Shakespeare engages his reader by presenting a woman realistically rather than romanticizing her. He does this by criticizing the courtly love tradition, thereby reversing the conventions of his time.
             In order to accomplish his theme of realistic love, Shakespeare brilliantly presents us with binary opposites. The very first line he tells us that his mistress' eyes cannot be compared to the brilliancy of the 'sun'. In fact, the first two quatrains purposefully serves to humanize the mistress in question using these binary opposites. Her lips are not red as coral, her breasts are 'dun' (line3) instead of white as snow, her hair is wiry, her cheeks are not a mixture of red and white like roses, and her breath is nothing like perfume, instead it 'reeks' (line 8). At this point one might become displeased with Shakespeare's presentation of his Mistress. However, the overly romanticized way of presenting women may be the reason for this. In the sixteenth century, the time in which Shakespeare wrote, the courtly love tradition was practiced. It became the norm to put women on pedestals and present them as goddess like creatures. Imagine you are a man waking up to your woman beside you after a long night's rest. She turns over and says right in your face, good morning.

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