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My, but Jane Austen knew how to write great dialogue. Also, how to use sarcasm and irony and, I would argue, foreshadowing, extremely well.

Today's quote comes from Volume I, Chapter 3 of Pride & Prejudice, which is perhaps the best-loved of Austen's novels. It occurs during a conversation between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley at the local assembly (basically a public ball), after Bingley points Elizabeth Bennet out to Mr. Darcy. You can read my summary of Chapter 3 in its entirety, but suffice it to say that Elizabeth hears Mr. Darcy's remark and decides as a result not to like him. And really, who can blame her?

Today's poem is Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare, which begins "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun." The poem is, in my opinion, a satire on the courtly poems of the day, in which even plain women were described in flowery terms; Shakespeare went the other way, perhaps insulting the appearance of the woman who is the subject of the poem. It is my personal belief that the poem was a performance piece, which would have been greeted with hearty laughter throughout - and delivered with a bit of a wink at the end, when he acknowledges that his love is true.

Sonnet 130
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 damask'd, 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 heav'n, I think my love as rare
  As any she belied with false compare.

If you're interested in a more thorough discussion of the poem, I refer you to my earlier post on this one.

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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
kellyrfineman
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:10 pm (UTC)
That's the line that causes some to believe the poem was about a woman of African descent.
(Anonymous)
Apr. 5th, 2012 10:21 am (UTC)
tanita says:
Hah! A good description of my hair...
kellyrfineman
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:10 pm (UTC)
Re: tanita says:
I assume you know that there are those who believe the Dark Lady described in this poem was, in fact, of African descent?
reginaclarejane
Apr. 5th, 2012 10:46 am (UTC)
oh my- what a sonnet! i would have been hard-pressed to see the declaration at the end as true but that is what's so brilliant about it. and i went back to your earlier post about it- awesome-ness!
:)
kellyrfineman
Apr. 5th, 2012 12:11 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked the earlier post - it really is quite a poem. Can't you see him (a seasoned stage actor) practically leaping about while "performing" this poem for laughs? I sure can.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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