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Poetry - My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun

In addition to the many plays for which he is famous, William Shakespeare also wrote 154 sonnets. Sonnets are an example of lyric poetry, or poetry which deals with emotions (although lyric poetry would originally have been sung). All sonnets have fourteen lines divided into three quatrains and one final couplet. Most of Shakespeare's sonnets share the theme of love. Sonnet 130 is one of the most well-known -- as well as one of the most amusing.

Enjoy some of the easiest Shakespearean analysis you may ever do.

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Sonnet 130: My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun

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.

William Shakespeare
  1. Who is the speaker (narrator) of this poem?
  2. 'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun' - What does this line mean?
  3. 'If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun' - What does 'dun' mean?
    Even if you do not know the meaning of the word 'dun', by this point in the poem you can work out that the mistress is the opposite of the extravagant comparisons
  4. Which of the following is true?
  5. 'I have seen roses damasked, red and white / But no such roses see I in her cheeks' - What do these lines imply?
    The speaker implies throughout that he has been led to believe that metaphors and similes are to be taken literally
  6. 'If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head' - Which of the following best describes the tone of this line?
    By the time that we read of his beloved's reeking breath, we get the picture! The metaphors and similes used to describe women's looks are ridiculous
  7. What is the rhyme scheme of this sonnet?
  8. 'My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground' - The poet contrasts his beloved's movement with that of...
  9. All sonnets have a 'turn', or change. In Sonnet 130, the turn occurs in which lines?
    The sonnet was originally an Italian poetic form. The Italian term for 'turn' is volta
  10. What is meant by the final couplet?

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