We had a stimulating morning discussing Shakespeare’s sonnet “My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (Number 130). Lots of great ideas flowing in the room… one of the best was John’s comment that Shakespeare was challenging all the conventions about women’s beauty which tend to “FLORALIZE/FLORALISE” women – I have not been able to find this word in the dictionary but I am sure Shakespeare would have been proud of the way his poem stimulated the creation of a new word in the English Language. Shakespeare was doing this sort of thing all the time… and it is a great word: it captures the way in which REALITY is so often masked by artificial beauty. Shakespeare was in quest of the REAL… this is true throughout his work… as we will see when we look at one of his plays later in our unit. Is this the sort of artificial beauty, for example, that Shakespeare would have attacked had he been writing in our own time?
What we in fact discovered when we explored the poem more deeply is that the whole poem is in some way an ANTI-POEM… in the way it attacks the use of figurative language. In the first line for example he almost writes an ANTI-SIMILE: My mistress’ eyes are NOTHING LIKE the sun…. and by the end of the poem, when he writes
I think by love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
we get a sense that his whole poem is an attack on the misuse of language, of images to distort the truth: his mistress “treads on the ground”….
So well done to all of you for helping the class towards a rich interpretation of this poem. Here is the snapshot I took at the start of the class… I think we will have to try for a better one next time….