Shakespeare's Sonnets Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In the sonnet beginning "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes," what is the  problem, resolution, and turning point?

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Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The problem, for the speaker, is that he feels that he has so many disadvantages and misfortunes that he cannot be happy. He feels like an "outcast," perhaps alienated from society or even from God, because he says that heaven, or God, is "deaf" to his sadness (lines 2-3); he curses his fate and wishes that he could be "more rich in hope" like other men are (line 5). He wishes that he had more talent, more ability, or more power, as other men seem to have. He is "contented least" even by the things that make him the most happy (line 8). Even those things he most enjoys bring him little contentment.

The turning point arrives in line 9, after the first two quatrains (groups of four lines). He says, "Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, / Haply I think on thee [...]"; the word "Yet" is a good signal that something is changing here because it conveys contrast. In other words, even when the speaker feels at his lowest, nearly hating everything, he thinks of his love, whom he addresses here. When he thinks of her, his "state" or mood, perhaps, rises "Like the lark at break of day [...] / From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven's gate" (lines 11-12). Day seems to connote happiness and possibility, and so the speaker's mood changes from sullen and low to almost divine in its contentedness.

The resolution is contained by the last two lines of the poem: "For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings, / That then I scorn to change my state with kings" (lines 13-14). Therefore, whenever the speaker remembers that he is loved by her, it makes him feel so wealthy, so fortunate, that he would not trade places even with royalty. So, remembering her love banishes all of his sadness and feelings of misfortune.

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Sonnet #29, the speaker complains that he is "in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes," that he feels like an outcast, and that he is full of envy towards other men who have various advantages over him. This recitation of his troubles takes up the first eight lines of the sonnet. The turning point comes at the ninth line, and the next four lines contain one of Shakespeare's most beautiful similes, the only simile in the poem.

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;

The concluding couplet, the fifteenth and sixteenth lines, contain the resolution. The speaker completely recovers from his mood of depression because he remembers that he has the love of the person to whom the sonnet is addressed.

For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings,

That then I scorn  to change my state with kings.

No doubt Shakespeare is expressing his own feelings in this poem, as he does in most of his other sonnets.

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