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Themes

In Sonnet 130, the theme "Women and Femininity" is connected to the idea of appearances. This poem is all about female beauty and our expectations and stereotypes about the way women ought to look. You know how in magazines women pretty much tend to look the same? They all fit into a very narrow definition of what is beautiful. Essentially, the speaker in this poem is pointing out that love poetry does the same thing. It makes women into goddesses, not real human beings. He insists that his idea of beautiful femininity doesn't depend on fitting an abstract, unrealistic fantasy.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Do you think that this poem is a brave and exciting statement about women and their beauty? Or is it just kind of a joke?
  2. In our summary of this theme, we mentioned magazines and the media and their unrealistic standards of female beauty. Do you think this is the same issue we see in this poem? Why or why not?
  3. Does it matter that the person the speaker describes is a woman? Could you write a poem like this about a man?
  4. Are the rules different for male and female beauty? Do you think that's what this poem is about, or is the idea of gender less important than questions of love?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Shakespeare uses this sonnet not only to satirize bad poetry, but also to criticize the unrealistic expectations that men have for female beauty.

Although the subject of this poem is a woman, this speaker is talking about questions of love and honesty that could apply equally to men and women.

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