(Shakespeare for Students)

Sonnet 29 cover image

Line 1
The opening word “when” qualifies the whole poem, and sets up “Sonnet 29” as an “if-then” statement. The speaker may not be out of luck or the public’s favor at the moment, at all. However, the strong emotions exhibited in the following lines suggest that these feelings of isolation and despair are not unfamiliar to him; indeed, by line 9, he seems to gain a certain satisfaction from wallowing in his self-pity.

Line 2
The repetition of the word “state” in lines 2, 10, and 14 indicates its significance in the poem. But its many levels of meaning prevent the reader from understanding the cause of the speaker’s rejection: “state” may signify a condition, a state of mind, an estate or a person’s status. However, the adjective “outcast” does possess a religious connotation (as in “outcast from Eden”) that is evident again in the sonnet’s last three lines.

Lines 3-4
The speaker’s skyward wails receive no reply either from nature or from God. Angered and feeling abandoned, the speaker resorts to bitter sarcasm (when he facetiously remarks that he can “trouble” heaven) and swearing (“cursed my fate”).

Line 5
The second quatrain serves as the speaker’s wish list for ways in which he might alter his “state.” Despite these lines, his condition remains almost as ambiguous as ever. For example, someone “rich in hope” might be a more hopeful person; alternately, it might be someone who has prospects of wealth.

Lines 6-7
The speaker continues to name the types of people he wishes to be like but proceeds to use descriptions with obscure or multiple meanings. Not only does “featured” have several definitions (“handsome” or “formed”, to name two), but it refers...

(The entire section is 768 words.)