The sonnet presents us with a number of cliché inversions. Shakespeare opens the poem with a bold statement about the eyes of his mistress and how they are ‘nothing like the sun.’ And continues this way to present her attractions honestly following a typical Blazon style. Her lips are red but ‘Coral is far more red than her lips.’ Her breasts (a feature if a woman body that would show immense beauty during Shakespeare period) are not as white as snow but ‘are dun.’ Shakespeare describes the contrast of red and white on a rose as ‘damasked’, ‘I have seen roses damasked red and white, but no such roses see I in her cheeks’. This imagery of his mistress’ non rosy cheeks compared to a rose that Shakespeare has seen, adds an ambience of light humour to the poem as it comes as Shakespeare writes as if he is surprised by his loves cheeks. The ordinary beauty and humanity of his love are what is important to Shakespeare in this sonnet, as he deliberately uses typical love poetry clichés against themselves. ‘If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head’. Hair is another typical cliché about women’s beauty being golden threads, however Shakespeare described his loves hair as ‘black wires.’
Conventional love sonnets would have depicted their loved ones as god like figures that speak music and drift above the ground as they walk, Shakespeare mocks the way a pretentious poet might say ‘My love walks like a goddess' as he bluntly writes ‘My mistress when she walks treads on the ground’ This reinforces Shakespeare's main theme that perhaps the best way tell someone you love him or her in a poem is to be simple, honest and straightforward. These stock clichés or conventions for praising a woman’s beauty are a kind of charming way to tell your lover how much they mean to you, taking a woman’s features one by one, and then praising their loveliness. Yet, even as a graceful as it is, Shakespeare seems unhappy with such conventions. The way he sends up these exaggerations suggests a kind of realism that has a deep moral value as he does not want to belittle his love by giving her this mindless empty praise, for he loves her for what she is showing true love. His poem is genuinely complementary by apparently being more negative. He surpasses the conventional complements by showing up their exaggerated nature, and so implies the real loveliness of his mistress. In fact his mistress is quite as “rare” as any woman praised in more conventional terms. It’s just that he is not going to bide by these mindless poetical terms. In some ways Shakespeare is actually exaggerating overturning the conventional way of praising his mistress’ beauty in order to imply that his love goes beyond that and that it is unique in this way.
After the volta in the sonnet, Shakespeare acknowledges all of his loves imperfections and limitations she may have and says she is nonetheless very special towards him, ’And yet, by heaven, i think my love is rare.’ The simplicity of these lines further clarifies true honest love and serve as a kind of punch-line within the poem. Shakespeare insists that love does not need conceits in order to be real, and women do not need to look like flowers or the sun in order to be beautiful.