To be imperfect or not to be imperfect...that is the question

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"And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare" (Shakespeare 13-14). 
 
Good thing Shakespeare threw those last two lines in there, because if he would have read this aloud to his mistress, she probably would have slapped him after the first stanza.  :-P
 
Seriously though, Shakespeare finds beauty in imperfection.  He is making his mistress real to us in this poem.  How many odes or sonnets have you read that make the woman the narrator is in love with out to be a goddess?  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the fact that this sonnet does not follow that pattern is what makes it unique.  He is pointing out her flaws to show us that she is a real person.  That makes the ending (where he confesses his love for her) much more significant.  He is saying despite all her imperfections, he still loves her.  If he described her as a glowing goddess with beauty like no other and then at the end said that he loved her, we'd be like, "Yeah, well, who wouldn't?  Every man in town would be after her."  When he writes in this way, he makes his mistress much more important to us (as readers).   

2 Comments

Good call, Lauren. It's a great example of the structure of a sonnet -- the last two lines have to pack a punch that drives the final idea home.

Greta Carroll said:

Lauren, that is so true. Why should Shakespeare write another sonnet about loving a beautiful girl? There is nothing remarkable about loving someone who is physically appealing. Shakespeare writes a poem to shock. We are expecting to hear about his wonderful mistress, but instead, he makes her real. Not many women in real life are goddesses; Shakespeare can look past physical imperfections to the inside, something not many people at the time were able to do…I can’t help but cynically wonder if his focus on internal virtue did not have something to do with Queen Elizabeth, who would undoubtedly look kindly upon men who loved women for their personalities.

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