Sonnet 130


Ask your class what they already know about love poems. What should be included in a love poem? Ask them to have a go at writing a love poem about a woman. In the poem they need to talk about the woman’s eyes, lips, skin, hair, breasts, cheeks, smell, breath and voice. You could use an image of a woman to spark ideas. Read a few and talk about common features (flattering etc).


Talk about the ‘blazon’ technique which was a common feature of love poetry – a technique in which poets listed their beloved’s attributes and made elaborate comparisons with each one. Often, the phrases used by many love poets were hyperbolized. Many women’s features were compared to objects that they could not realistically resemble. Look at an example – for example an extract from Edmund Spenser’s ‘Epithalamion’ (1595):

Her long loose yellow locks lyke golden wyre…

Her goodly eyes lyke saphyres shining bright,
Her forehead yvory white,
Her cheekes lyke apples with the sun hath rudded,
Her lips lyke cherryes charming men to byte,
Her brest like to a bowle of creame uncrudded,
Her paps lyke lyllies budded,
Her snowie necke lyke to a marble towre,
And all her body like a pallace fayre,
Ascending uppe, with many a stately stayre,

What do they think about the use of this technique? Is it romantic? How would they feel to receive it?

Main Activities:

Tell students that you’re going to look at a love poem that uses the blazon technique but in quite a different way. Unroll (see earlier post) Sonnet 130. What do students notice? What questions do they have? What do they think?

Before the final couplet, ask students to write the last two lines. Feedback. Reveal the final two lines and discuss what differences this makes to the poem.

What do they think about Shakespeare’s love poem? How would they feel if they received it? Is it more or less flattering than the love poem they wrote? Why?


Dice Game – students get into small groups and roll a dice. Whichever number they roll is the kind of comment they need to make about the poem. If someone has already commented on that, they have to elaborate, extend or challenge. (They should also use this time to annotate their copy of the poem).

1 – Interpretation

2 – Tone of the poem

3 – Context of the poem

4 – Language – linguistic devices used and effect?

5 – Structure – structure of the poem and significance/effect?

6 – Possible links between this poem and any others studied so far.

Follow this us by asking students to review what comments were made and give them time to add anything new to their annotation of the poem.

I have included a link below to a brilliant stop frame animation of the poem – you may want to spend a little bit of time looking at it with your class:


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