By: Sarita Pantha
Irony is the simplest form which consists of saying one thing while meaning something opposite. I. A. Richards in his ‘Principles of Literary Criticism’ defined "Irony as equilibrium of opposing attitudes and evaluations" (32). Irony in this sense consists in the bringing on of the opposite, the complementary impulses; that is why poetry which is exposed to it is not of the highest order, and why irony itself is so constantly a characteristics of poetry. Irony may be dramatic, situational, or verbal. Dramatic irony occurs when a narrator or character perceives less than readers do. Situational irony occurs when what happens is at odds with what readers are led to expect; Verbal irony occurs when the narrator says one thing but actually means another.
"My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun" by William Shakespeare shows these different kinds of irony through different metaphor and similes. Metaphor and similes helps us to identify the exactness of the idea which is expressed by poet or author. That ideas deal with the very term irony. The poem starts with simple negation of resemblance situation where similarity is insisted upon as a custom. The poet misuses the metaphorical area a poetic language doing a false comparison. Irony can be defined as the balance between opposing attitudes. Such irony can be found clearly in sonnet 130 of Shakespeare. Shakespeare mainly uses the verbal irony in sonnet 130. Actually verbal irony means the poet or speaker of the poem says one thing but he or she actually means another meaning. For instance in the poem where his mistress eyes are comparing with the sun, Lips with coral, Breast with snow and blackness with wire hair. The false comparison showing the negative aspect of his mistress. The misuse of metaphorical dimension of poetical language done by the poet.
The poet also uses conditional stanza to compare his mistress with unmatchable things i.e. also called anti simile. That anti simile also creates the verbal irony.
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. Shakespeare compares his mistress with natural thing and asks himself about her beauty. If we look the 3rd and 4th stanza from sonnet 130 we can’t help ourselves from laughing. The poet creates false comparisons which is unbelievable and ridiculous. All this comparison show gap between what the words seems to be saying and what they are saying so, the reader might get confusion. Note that verbal irony depends on knowledge of the fictional speakers ironic intention, which is shared both by the speaker and the reader; structural irony depends on a knowledge of the authors ironic intention, which is shared by the reader but is not intended by the fictional speaker. An irony can add clue to sarcasm is the exaggerated inflection of the speaker's voice.
Irony can be shown through different styles; including metaphor, simile and adjectives, etc. In this regards M. H. Abrams in his "A Glossary of Literary Terms" defines term "Irony as qualified by an adjective is used to identify various literary devices and modes of organization" (143). The sonnet My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun is also full of different adjectives which help to promote in the development of irony in the poem. For instance: red, white, pleasing, dun, black, etc. These adjective help us to know the better the metaphor and similes which is decorated in the poem and that decoration helps us to know the irony in the poem.
He had seen different color of rose like red, white but he did not see roses in her cheeks it show the irony towards his mistress. And he compares her breath with bad smell not with the perfume which is more delight. Disparity contrast and disharmony are the major aspect of irony. It is thought that perhaps all words are not adequate for the representation of things. In the above lines the poet shows the negative aspect of his mistress.
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. The given lines show that beloved like to hear his mistress speak but the sound is not pleasing than the music and he never saw a goddess walk on the ground but he only saw his beloved walk in the ground. These four lines also show the verbal irony in the given stanza. Shakespeare shows the negative comparison it the given sonnet.
In sonnet My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun the speaker of the poem puts the little ideas with big words through love, appearances, women and feminist, etc. The whole sonnet is a parody and parody also concerned with verbal irony because the author or poet uses those types of metaphor which is laughable by listening. The poet doesn’t even use the grandiose metaphor or allusion. The poem is mainly concerned with total and consuming of love.
Historically Shakespeare tells the beauty of his mistress among his friends through the help of irony connecting with the beauty of her but ironically. At the period of Shakespeare the entire all poet writes the poem describing their beloved through highly decorative metaphor but Shakespeare write the poem with the help of irony to be unique among them and always. The Shakespeare uses the dead metaphor as "My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun".
Walter Raleigh in his Printed book "Shakespeare” writes Keats knew the position well, and has commented on it, though not tragically in some passages of his letters. "Men of Genius," he says," are great as certain ethereal chemicals operating on the mass of neutral intellect- but they have not any individuality, any determined character. "And again "A poet is the most in poetical of anything in existence, because he has no identity – he is continually informing and filling some other body" (16).
In the sonnet My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun the poet may seem commendable, we must not forget that Shakespeare himself was the master of the compliment and frequently made use of the very same sorts of exaggerated comparisons in satirized way. In the poem the exaggeration of his mistress does not clearly portrait that person and won’t justify the actual amount of reality and that exaggeration may leads to confusion. Whether Shakespeare compare his love to dead metaphor and other false comparisons he conclude his poem with highly motivating his love by saying; "And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare". The term yet shows the also irony in this poem that his rest of the stanzas are only for ironic propose but he thinks his love is greater than that false comparisons.
In conclusion Shakespeare as in his sonnet My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun uses irony to compare his love with unbelievable or ridiculous things. The first line of the poem shows the clear picture of verbal irony as "My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun". Verbal irony occurs when the narrator says one thing but actually means another. Here the poet also says something but we understand another. The irony of the poem does not clearly portrait that person and won’t justify the actual amount of reality and that exaggeration may leads to confusion. Sonnet My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun is full of adjectives which help us to know the better about the metaphor and similes which is decorated in the poem and that decoration helps us to know the irony in the poem. Irony is the simplest form which consists of saying one thing while meaning something opposite as equilibrium of opposing attitudes and evaluations. Irony in this sense consists in the bringing on of the opposite, the complementary impulses; that is why poetry which is exposed to it is not of the highest order, and why irony itself is so constantly a characteristics of poetry which is. So My Mistress Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun by William Shakespeare shows these different kinds of irony through different metaphor and similes. The poem starts and ends with simple negation of resemblance situation where similarity is insisted upon as a custom.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. Eighth Edition, 2005. (142-143).
Ferguson, Margaret. Salter, Jo Mary. Stallworthy, Jon. The Norton Anthology of
Poetry. Fifth Edition. 2005. (1)
Raleigh, Walter. Shakeapeare. INC, New York. 1953, 1957. (16).
Richards, I. A. Principles of Literary Criticism.London: Rotuludge ,1924. (32).