Today in class we read Shakespeare's Sonnet 130, also known as "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun." I remember the first time I ever read it ... I think. I believe it was in Mrs. Edwards' ninth-grade class at Episcopal. I remember thinking it was funny, not snobby or high falutin as I expected Shakespeare to be.
When I first told the class that we were going to read Shakespeare, they groaned. Groaned, I say! I believe they moaned, too. There was some gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.
They were even less enthusiastic when I said we would be reading sonnets. This saddened me. I mean, this is Shakespeare. Shakespeare is wonderful. It is a travesty that so many high-school students end up with such a bad taste in their mouth for all things Shakespeare.
I don't want my students to hate Shakespeare. So I'm hoping my love for Shakespeare will be a positive thing. I'm no expert in Shakespeare, but I'm no ignoramus either when it comes to the Bard. So maybe my knowledge and enthusiasm will help to discourage teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling.
Today, after we read and analyzed Sonnet 130, I looked up to see a couple of students grinning. "Did you like that one?" I asked, and they nodded.
They liked it! Hey, Mikey!
And then, as class was ending, another student said he was looking forward to writing his sonnet, that he thought it would be fun.
A sonnet! Fun! Yes! He gets it!
I'm very happy today. The Shakespeare-hatred seems to be decreasing ever so slightly in this English Literature class. I hope they will continue to learn that, if you just read Shakespeare and become even a little bit accustomed to the 16th-century "speech," you simply can't help but love old Will.
Oh ... here's the sonnet we read today.
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.