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Shakespeare's Sonnets

by William Shakespeare
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Discuss the similarities between Shakespeare's Sonnets 29 and 30.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 29 and 30 are similar in initially dwelling on unpleasant emotions and turning to a consideration of love and affection. Sonnet 29 is about despair, hope, and the uplifting power of love. Sonnet 30 is concerned with regrets and loss, along with the restorative effects of affection.

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William Shakespeare’s Sonnets 29 and 30 are similar in their themes and overall structure. Both poems begin with an octet that considers an emotional topic that is primarily negative and that employs a correspondingly dark tone. In addition, the speaker is self-focused. They are also similar in piling on one negative thing after another, making it impossible to mistake the speaker’s depressed. In the sestet, both the subject and the tone shift markedly. While still concerned with emotion, the emphasis is on positive, affectionate feelings. Along with this shift, the focus turns outward to consider and even thank another person.

The specific emotions initially considered in Sonnet 29 are self-pity and envy. The speaker begins by confessing the sadness they feel when alone. They compare their “state” to that of others who are more optimistic, are better looking, have more friends, or are more creative. Beginning with Line 9, it begins to turn upbeat. “Haply” (happily), however, thinking of the other person’s “sweet love” makes them realize they have more than anyone else.

Sonnet 30 is concerned with memory and the pain it can bring. The speaker remembers what they have lost or never achieved. The losses refer to death and bygone love as well as conflicts with others. Memory itself is part of their problem, as the more they reminisce, the worse they feel. The shift to positive feelings comes even later in this sonnet, in Line 13, as the speaker praises their “dear friend” for being instrumental in making “sorrows end.”

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