Historical Context in Sonnet 129

Historical Context Examples in Sonnet 129:

Sonnet 129 3

"dream..."   (Sonnet 129)

In Shakespeare’s 1594 narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece, the Roman prince Tarquin rapes the noblewoman Lucretia. The poem explores the overlapping natures of sexuality and violence much in the way that Sonnet 129 does. The two poems also share the notion of sex as a fleeting “dream.” As Tarquin says, “What win I if I gain the thing I seek?/A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy” (Lucrece 211-12).

"hunted..."   (Sonnet 129)

The metaphor of amorous pursuit as a hunt is an old poetic conceit that Shakespeare repurposes here. In older sonnets such as Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso List to Hunt,” the love object is depicted as a deer that the speaker tracks down. In Sonnet 129, the aristocratic elegance of the hunt is gone, replaced by a shameful hunt “past reason.”

"spirit..."   (Sonnet 129)

“Spirit” was a common euphemism for an erection that came from the phrase “to raise a spirit.” “Spirit” can also mean one’s soul, figuratively meaning he has wasted his soul by enacting this sin. Here, the speaker introduces the spiritual crisis that he will explore throughout the poem using sexual metaphors.