Shakespeare

Sonnet 29

In Sonnet 29, the speaker finds himself in a state of emotional emptiness. Suffering from a lack of self-esteem, he looks enviously at those around him and even loses the joy he takes in his writing. He becomes consumed with desires for wealth, opportunity, status, skill, and friends. These desires remain unfulfilled, as do his cries to “deaf heaven.” At the volta—the classic thematic shift at line 9—the speaker turns his thoughts to the fair youth. His perspective changes. His mood lightens. He is left with a sense of complete fulfillment at the remembrance of “thy sweet love.” In the bold final couplet, the speaker claims that he would not “change my state with kings.” The speaker’s continual reference to the highs and lows of his “state” gives his plight a fickle tone, and suggests an ephemerality to the poem’s events. All states are subject change, and so the speaker’s confident conclusion carries a sense of flimsiness. Indeed, the next sonnet brings a new set of sorrows, as does the one after.

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