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Themes in Sonnet 129
Themes Examples in Sonnet 129:
"dream..." See in text (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).
"bliss..." See in text (Sonnet 129)
The shift from “proof” to “proved” marks the transition from “bliss” to “woe.” This is one of the poem’s central themes: that the sexual act is a momentary bliss that leads to unnecessary anguish. The line’s construction prefigures the poem’s final line such that “bliss” parallels “heaven” while “woe” parallels “hell.”
"spirit..." See in text (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.