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Discuss and analyze the meaning of "Sonnet 29" by William Shakespeare.

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joshyg123 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 11, 2012 at 8:01 PM via web

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Discuss and analyze the meaning of "Sonnet 29" by William Shakespeare.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 11, 2012 at 9:31 PM (Answer #1)

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  • When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes…

One of Shakespeare’s often quoted lines from “Sonnet 29” was dedicated along with many other sonnets to a young man that is greatly loved. Not much is known about Shakespeare’s personal life; therefore, it is impossible to make assumptions about the romantic aspect of these poems.

The Shakespearean sonnet follows a set pattern.  It has fourteen lines with three quatrains [4 line verses] and a couplet at the end.  The rhyme scheme is abab,cdcd,efef,gg. 

The first eight lines of Shakespeare’s sonnet always present an argument which shows his unhappiness with what he does. Beginning with the ninth line, “yet,” —, 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.

Haply I think on thee, and then my state

Like to the lark at break of day arising...

 

The following lines are my translation of the poem:

In disastrous poverty, I stand alone lamenting, dishonored by my fellow man.

God in heaven  does not respond to my cries for help,

I look at myself and I damn my luck,

Hoping that I will have one more chance,

Craving his good looks and all his friends,

Longing to have this man’s skill and vision,

I am so unhappy that I do not even enjoy what I like doing the most,

However, as I almost hate myself

If I think of you, my bad temper,

Like a beautiful song bird at dawn that flies up above the earth and sings a hymn

I remember your sweet love  which brings me such happiness

Then  I feel as though I am a king.

 

This is Shakespeare at  his most troubled and uncertain.  When Shakespeare wrote this poem, the highly contagious plague hit London and hundreds were ill.  The playhouses had to close.  This would have been financially devastating to Shakespeare.  In this sonnet, the narrator feels unlucky, shamed, and fiercely jealous of those around him. Whether this is Shakespeare writing about himself, literary critics do not know.

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