In Sonnet 29, "When, in disgrace..." Shakespeare uses the sonnet form to present two contrary states of mind of a person in love. How does he do this?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The contrary states of mind are of that of envy versus contentment.  In the first half of the sonnet, the speaker is envious.  He feels that he is "all alone" and that he is in an "outcast state".  He wishes that he were "like to one more rich in hope" and desires "this man's art" and "that man's scope."  In other words, he wants to be everyone except who he currently is.

However, luckily for this speaker, he has a young friend to turn his envy into contentment.  When he thinks of his friend, he is "like to the lark", a simile meaning that his spirits soar and sing.  At these thoughts, he doesn't even want to change his life with a king's.  He is pleased.

Shakespeare first uses transitions to take the audience from the envy to the contentment.  He starts with "when" to indicate only certain times, then uses the transition "yet" in line 9 to indicate a contrast to what has come before, and finally uses the word "then" in line 10 to show the change from one state to another.

Additionally, Shakespeare uses contradictions in his description to emphasize the contrasting states of mind.  From "sullen earth" to "heaven's gate", and "deaf heaven" to "bootless cries", the audience has enough "this" (this man) and "that" (that man) to be consistently reminded that the speaker's state of mind is two-fold and contrasting.

luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Shakespearean sonnet is composed of four quatrains and a rhyming couplet at the end that is usually a commentary on what has been said in the previous 12 lines.  Shakespeare uses this form to create an opposition, or contrast, in sonnet #29.  This first 8 lines are building up to a high point of excitement, or anguish depending on how it's viewed, then the next four lines serve as an opposition to those first 8.  In the first 2 quatrains. Shakespeare is lamenting his feelings of despair.  He feels that he is not as good or as fortunate as others and it depresses him. The third quatrain then says that he despises this type of feeling in himself especially when he remembers how lucky he is to have his love.  The couplet at the end then says that when he does remember his love, he realizes he wouldn't trade places with kings.  He goes from one feeling great sadness and depression to one realizing how lucky and happy he is and he is scornful of himself for feeling such self-pity.

subrataray | Student

The sonnet story reveals the different phases of the poet's crisis . Plague in London , closing of theater , gradual waning of relation with South Hampton , South Hampton's trespass to poet's mistress , a sense of inferiority for his vagabond -state , - etc find pictures in sonnet ,-29 .And side by side the poet's pity on himself comes out through this sonnet .

The time ,  we may assume was 1592 , when epidemic of plague resulted the close of theater .He was then disgrace with fortune .He turned naked from his glory , and he had nothing left save bootless -cry .Misfortune comes with its companions .The poet then could neither write , nor act , and still nor communicate .His mask-worn friend forgot his poor poet .Only the reminiscence of the past , became the stay of life .The poet returned to the sweet memory to mitigate the direst crisis .Again , there is a note of irony on the word "kings" .A king is a fortune's whore , but the poet's misfortune introduces him to the reality .Friend's love is also an irony .Had he not  been visited by misfortune , he could never know his friend and the truths of life .Sweets are the fruits of adversity (As You Like It)