William Shakespeare: The great Sonnet 29

In Elizabethan England, professional writers were among those most highly revered. Writers all across England sought aristocratic patronage. The few that achieved this coveted position was amply rewarded with money, protection, and prestige.

Shakespeare was one of these lucky few, who enjoyed this advantage. Shakespeare pushed the boundaries of conventional poetry with his Sonnets.

In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, the speaker is overwhelmed by feelings of unluckiness and self-loathing. It only by a chance remembrance of his beloved that reminds him how lucky he truly is.

In this sonnet by William Shakespeare that was first published in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe of London, the speaker’s extreme anguish concerning his “state” piques his audience’s curiosity. This is further heightened by the repetition of this word in lines 2, 10, and 14.

Lyrics of William Shakespeare Sonnet 29

Below is the Sonnet 29 written by Shakespeare

“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

(Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;

       For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

       That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”

William Shakespeare Sonnet
William Shakespeare Sonnet

Lyrical Interpretation of Sonnet 29

The lyrics in the sonnet in its simplest form tries to convey the feelings of the writer. It states that when the writer is in disgrace with one and all and his luck has abandoned him, he sits all alone and cries on the fact that he is an outcast. He bothers God with his cries that falls on the deaf ears and curses his fate.

Speaker wished to have some mans good looks, other mans friends, someone’s skills and opportunities from someone else. He is very disappointed with the things he usually enjoys the most.

When the writer is hating himself thinking about such things, he remembers you and his state of mind improves like that of a lark at the daybreak who rises up leaving the earth to sing hymns for god. When he remembers the sweet love given by you, he finds himself so lucky that he refuses to change his place even with the kings.

William Shakespeare  and Sonnet 29

Is the “outcast” because of his physical, mental, or emotional condition? His fortune or social rank? his rejection from a lover, or from society? His sexual orientation?

It is tempting to read Shakespeare’s own life into “Sonnet 29” and consider his sometimes unhappiness with his life in the theatre, or his alleged bisexuality. But one must always bear in mind that the sonnets have never proven to be autobiographical.

 The sonnet keeps focussing on the initial state of depression of speaker and about his unhappiness and hopelessness oh his life. And later how he recovers from it with the happier thoughts of the love.

The first eight lines of the sonnet describe the negative impression ad self-pity while the last six lines represent all the sweet love and positivity that help him to drive away all his despondency.

Stylistically, William Shakespeare Sonnet 29 is typically Shakespearean in its form. The first eight lines, which begin with “When,” establish a conditional argument and show the poet’s frustration with his craft.

The last six lines, expectedly beginning in line 9 with “Yet” – similar to other sonnets’ “But”. Resolving the conditional argument, present a splendid image of a morning lark that “sings hymns at heaven’s gate.” This image epitomizes the poet’s delightful memory of his friendship with the youth and compensates for the misfortunes he has lamented.

The Sonnet 29 is dedicated to all those persons who feel that they are worthless, useless and have inferiority complex compared to others. It gives hopes to all such and brings confidence in them by overcoming the negative and dark feelings by remembering the one whom they love and someone who love them back.

 Analysis of the Sonnet 29

Sonnet 29 shows the poet at his most insecure and troubled. He feels unlucky, shamed, and fiercely jealous of those around him. What causes the poet’s anguish will remain a mystery; as will the answer to whether the sonnets are autobiographical.

However, an examination of Shakespeare’s life around the time he wrote Sonnet 29 reveals two traumatic events that may have shaped the theme of the sonnet.

In 1592 the London theatres closed due to a severe outbreak of plague. Although it is possible that Shakespeare toured the outlying areas of London. It is almost certain that he left the theatre entirely during this time to work on his sonnets and narrative poems.

The closing of the playhouses made it hard for Shakespeare and other actors of the day to earn a living. With plague and poverty looming it is expected that he would feel “in disgrace with fortune”.

Themes of Sonnet 29

The sonnet 29 by Shakespeare can be categorized into four themes as per the perspective of the speaker and its analysis

  • Wealth

Here the speaker or we can say Shakespeare is describing the differences of the economic and spiritual wealth. At the beginning of the Sonnet, he feels spiritually bankrupted as he has no hopes and feels like even God doesn’t look on him.

Parallely he also uses some sort of language that specifies that he is going through some economic challenges. However, as depicted in the end the memories of his sweet love makes him feel spiritually wealthy and would not change his places with powerful men.

  • Isolation

Speaker himself gives the proof about him being all alone and isolated in the first 8 lines of the Sonnets. He describes that he has got no friends and God also don’t care about him. He also makes it very clear that he is separated from the one whom he loves the most.

  • Friendship

In the beginning, the speaker says that he has got no friends but eventually he realizes that there are some memories of his sweet love which lifted him out of depression and gave him the new motive of life. Speaker wants to convey to us that friendship is a very powerful element and here it works as spiritual salvation to the speaker.

  • Religion

When the Sonnet opens, the speaker is very pissed off with God and have some spiritual crisis. Hence he complains about God is not listening to him in the crisis of his life. He doesn’t seem to be happy at all with God. In the latter part, he recovers his spirituality and makes himself feel good about it.

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