Shakespeare's Sonnets Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What are the dis-similarities between Sonnet 29 and Sonnet 30? I'm writting a term paper on the similarities and the dis-similarities between Sonnets 29 and 30.  I had no trouble finding the similarities.

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You are right in saying that these two sonnets are extremely similar. Shakespeare's sonnets are believed to have been written in the order in which they are now numbered, and this is often evident in the continuation of theme across two or three sonnets, obviously reflecting the poet's present preoccupation. Both Sonnet 29 and Sonnet 30 are ultimately an address to the speaker's "dear friend" (30) and "sweet love" (29), thoughts of whom can immediately lift the poet from his misery. In both poems, too, the speaker seems to be identifying a desire for friends—in Sonnet 29, he yearns to be a man "with friends possessed," and in Sonnet 30, he mourns for "precious friends" who are now dead. In both cases, the poet's eventual resolution is that it doesn't actually matter so much that he does not have these longed-for friends, when he remembers that he has his beloved, who seemingly is enough on his own to satisfy the speaker emotionally.

Arguably, there is some nuance in the fact that Sonnet 29 shows generic yearning for another man's friends, while in Sonnet 30, the poet remarks upon a world of friendship outside of the beloved object—he is thinking particularly about those friends he has lost to "death's dateless night." In Sonnet 29, also, the speaker seems to be in his morose state for a different reason. Here, he feels he is in an "outcast state" and not possessed of the things other men have. In Sonnet 30, although he is equally miserable, the misery seems to be almost self-inflicted—the speaker has deliberately lowered himself into a reverie of "sweet silent thought." Rather than being dejected by the way the world is treating him, he here decides to wallow for a while in "remembrances" of how his life once was, which certainly saddens him, but in rather a different way.

In both poems, however, the poet's mood is lightened when he recalls that his present includes his beloved friend.

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Sonnet 29 has a specific audience, a you, who is so loved by the speaker that even though he, the speaker, has many difficulties in his life, just thinking about the love of his friend makes him feel “wealthy.”  The sonnet repeatedly uses images of wealth and status to describe his sad feelings. In Sonnet 30, however, the speaker does not describe his unhappiness in terms of an “outcast state” who desires what others have, as does the speaker in 29. Instead, he mourns lost friends and past times, and in general the sense that he is getting older. Youth seems to be the great loss in sonnet 30 and regrets for a life that he might live differently if he could, and so when the speaker thinks of his friend here, his “losses are restored,” which refers more to experience in general rather than the “outcast state” in the other poem.

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