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Thread: My Mistress' Eyes by Shakespeare

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb My Mistress' Eyes by Shakespeare

    It is said that of all the sonnets that exist, William Shakespeare wrote 154 of them. It is also said that a Shakespearean sonnet consists of 14 lines, each line contains ten syllables, and each line is written in iambic pentameter in which a pattern of a non-emphasized syllable followed by an emphasized syllable is repeated five times. The rhyme scheme in a Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, in which the last two lines are a rhyming couplet.

    In "My Mistress' Eyes" there is controversy over the amount of syllables in line 13.

    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 the modern American usage of English the word "heaven" would be pronounced with two syllables. Now, in the modern and old english dialogue them term "heaven" is often pronounced as having a single syllable like "heav'n", but this is not the way that "heaven" was written.

    And / yet, / by / hea / ven / I / think / my / love / as / rare

    OR

    And / yet, / by / heav'n / I / think / my / love / as / rare

    Could this have been a mistake in the writing of this Shakespearean poem or could the modern interpretation just be a misunderstanding?

    What is your opinion?

  2. #2
    Registered User Equality72521's Avatar
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    Well, first of all, this is my favorite sonnett of Shakespeares....


    And secondly, I am not sure if it is or is not a mistake. I could definately see how it could and could not be.

    Additionally, Shakespeare never had any of his sonnetts published so when people went back through and I guess put them through publishing after his death there could have been a mis-reading. But I do think you made a logical point on that.
    Little one, Fate might miscarry.
    Little one, why do you tarry?
    Little one, When May I marry you?
    My little one.

  3. #3
    The Body in the Library Thespian1975's Avatar
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    Iambic pentameter can have 11 syllables.

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

    It's called a weak or feminine ending.

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    Registered User Equality72521's Avatar
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    Wow, thespian. I did not even think of that, I was being all analytical and did not stop to think logically. Thank you for showing me up
    Little one, Fate might miscarry.
    Little one, why do you tarry?
    Little one, When May I marry you?
    My little one.

  5. #5
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Heaven is either one syllable or two, depending on poets preference - the en is elided over, as is the ending in seven.

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    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thespian1975 View Post
    Iambic pentameter can have 11 syllables.

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

    It's called a weak or feminine ending.
    You're offering rather dangerous advice - the two aren't the same. Here he is using elision, whereas there he is using an extrametrical syllable. Rare is clearly a stressed syllable, and compare is an "iamb" (though really an unstress-stressed, but lets not get into that).

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    Wow! There have been a lot of great thoughts and ideas shared here. Thank you for your participation. I will return next week to see if other people have comments.

  8. #8
    To my mind, there's no mistake there, at least not structurally/analytically.

    As you may know, this sonnet is rather ironic. Shakespeare mocks the Love-poems of that time, which were mostly made of comparisons --> see Spencer's sonnets.

    Maybe (in case of interpretation always maybe^^) Shakespeare wanted to emphasise his closing couplet by disrupting the prominent iambic rhythm. Just a suggestion...but it sounds probable to me

    Of course, it can also be because of a wrongly printed edition, there are so many different out there...Best you look for a good version, there are some pictures of the original copies (slighty paradox, I know^^)

    I hope I could help

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