Shakespeare Sonnet 20, A woman’s face, with nature’s own hand painted

Shakespeare sonnets


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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 20. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis.
A woman’s face, with nature’s own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love, and thy love’s use their treasure.

Shakespeare Sonnet 20 Analysis

He compares the youth’s face to that of a woman ‘but with natural beauty “Nature’s own hand painted” and that he is both the woman and man of the poets desire “master-mistress of my passion,” He says the youth possess a woman’s heart “woman’s gentle heart,” but without the fickleness or moodiness “shifting change” similar to a hypocritical woman “false women’s fashion.”

He says the youth’s eyes are also brighter than a woman’s “eye more bright than theirs” which lights up any object he gazes upon “gilding the object whereupon it gazeth”. Yet he says the youth‘s form is a man “man in hue” but his beauty controls everyone “all ‘hues’ in his controlling” and both men and women are attracted to him “men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth”

He says the youth was intended to be a woman “woman wert thou first created” but nature fond of him “fell a-doting” made him a man instead. By doing so, “by addition me of thee defeated” the poet’s love is defeated and he cannot have a relationship with him “to my purpose nothing”

Since nature has made the youth for women’s pleasure, “prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure” let the poet enjoy the youths love “ Mine be thy love” and let women enjoy the youth physically “thy love’s use their treasure”.

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