Sonnet 29 Critical Overview
by William Shakespeare

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Critical Overview

(Shakespeare for Students)

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Human love can be transcendent, and may even afford one a glimpse of “Heaven’s gate”: these themes have often been the focus of the discussions of “Sonnet 29,” one of the sonnets in Shakespeare’s sequence addressed to a young man. “Sonnet 29” says that God disappoints and the young man redeems, notes Paul Ramsey in The Fickle Glass: A Study of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. He goes on to discuss the idea of love as an alternate religion, and the unearthly rewards of worshipping another mortal. David Weiser also reads “Sonnet 29” as a proclamation of love’s saving grace, but with a twist: devotion to another can rescue someone from a preoccupation with oneself. “Irony pervades this sonnet, deriving from its basic contrast between love and self-love,” he continues in his book Mind in Character: Shakespeare’s Speakers in the Sonnets.

Figures of speech are often central to Shakespeare’s sonnets, making “Sonnet 29” unusual in its support of a single metaphor. But the simile of the lark that appears in line 12 has been recognized as especially effective and powerful because of its dramatic isolation. In his article for the Durham University Journal, David Thatcher engages in an in-depth discussion of the lark’s importance to the speaker, as well as to the poem.