What tone is used in the address of the speaker for Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Shakespeare wrote over 154 sonnets.  Sonnets 1-129 were dedicated to a young man that Shakespeare loved and admired.  Sonnet 29 falls into this category.

The poem is written in the English sonnet form. It is written with three quatrains and an ending rhyming couplet.  The first eight lines of the poem speak to one subject' and the turn occurs in the ninth line when the tone and subject are altered. The rhyme scheme follows the set pattern of ABABCDCDEFEFGG.

The speaker is the poet Shakespeare who speaks to the young man that he loves.  The poem begins in a particularly bad place for the speaker who is feeling particularly lonely. His tone is isolated and melancholy until the turn when the poet changes his mood to a pleasurable and happy promise of better times ahead.

The theme centers on the influence that a person can have on another when he is feeling outcast and alienated.  Man needs man.  He was never meant to be alone or to handle his problems without the help of God or man.

1st Quatrain

When the poet finds himself discredited with poor luck, and he has shamed himself in the perception of men…[the word when could mean that he is thinking of a time in the past or the possibility of this happening in the future].

The poet finds himself alone in his tears and exile.

Sardonically, he pleads to God for his help, but God turns a deaf ear. 

He turns his eye inward and examines himself and curses his luck.

2nd Quatrain

The poet desires to be a more optimistic person, or

A handsome man, a person with many friends or

One who is artistic or great intelligence,

His possessions are those which he once loved but no longer cares for now.

3rd Quatrain

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;

When the poet finds himself thinking about these things and hating himself...

[the turn] He thinks about his young lover: his complete being  breaks into song like the lark who soars toward the heaven’s when he sings his early morning song.

Rhyming Couplet

The precious love of his young man brings good fortune to him, and he would not change places with kings and all their wealth.


The poem addresses a time when the poet feels especially alienated and lonely.  He wallows in his self-pity wishing that he were someone else.  His low position makes him cry out to God, who gives him no response.

Nothing helps him until he changes his purview and remembers his lovely friend that raises his spirit and allows him to feel better about being himself.

Shakespeare uses a lovely simile comparing the lark and his song to the man’s spirit that soars when he thinks about his friend.