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William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet, and actor who was born on 26 April 1564 and died on 23 April 1616. He is widely acclaimed as the most excellent writer of the English language. Shakespeare also holds the title of world’s most creative and versatile dramatist. During his life, Shakespeare contributed almost 154 sonnets, 39 plays, two long narrative poems and some minor verses to the English language. He holds the privilege of being a writer whose plays have been translated in almost every living language and being performed more often than any of other playwrights.
Sonnet 29 is one of the 154 sonnets composed by William Shakespeare in his writing days. The Sonnet has been added in the Fair Youth Sequence published in 1609.
The poem Sonnet 29 has been written in the typical iambic pentameter that has always been a signature style of William Shakespeare. Although all the sonnets of Shakespeare follow the same structure; all of them have different subjects and different themes. Every sonnet by Shakespeare carries a unique theme and idea that depicts his current state of mind. Sonnet 29 contains fourteen lines, having three rhyming quatrains that end in a rhyming couplet at the end.
The poem consists of two distinct sections. In the first octave the poet carries the different state of mind and in the second or last sestet, takes a turn towards an opposite state of mind.
Sonnet 29 is the depiction of the state of mind of a person who is going through a rough patch of his life (Kinney). The poem consists of a depiction of two different types of emotions that are a part of a man’s life. The poem starts with one extreme and gradually moves towards another extreme. It begins with an extremely gloomy note and makes the reader realize that the speaker is in a state of despair, but as the poem moves towards the end, the reader gets to see another side of the speaker and sees a hopeful side.
As the poem begins, it does not become clear whether the speaker is a man or a woman. The poet has kept the identity of the poet behind the veils; but many experts assume that the speaker is a young man, who is explaining his current state of mind.
The reader immediately realizes the state of the speaker, as the poem starts, where the speaker keeps no secrets and immediately throws his feelings at the reader in the words, “in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes." The speaker seems very depressed and tells that his fortune has brought nothing good for him. His luck has only brought disgrace for him, and he is ashamed of having such a stroke of bad luck.
In the second line, the speaker goes one step further in describing his current state with the words, “I all alone beweep my outcast state” (Shakespeare). This line makes the position of the speaker more clear in the eyes of the readers, and they can understand one of the reasons for the speaker’s depression. These words explain the social status of the speaker, as he is explaining that he is all alone. He is complaining about his lonely state and pointing towards the cruel behavior that the society has shown towards him. The words "outcast state" point towards the isolation of the speaker that the speaker has also been isolated by the society and he has no one with him to share his feelings, his issues. He is complaining that he is weeping all alone in his isolation, where nobody comes to ask about his condition.
The third line is even more depressing as it carries the words “trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries." The words take the reader to a further level of depression, as the speaker is clearly sobbing out loud not only for the society but also to God. With the words "deaf heaven" the speaker is referring to God, whereas the terms "bootless cries” refer to the unanswered prayers or unfulfilled wishes. The speaker further explains his condition that God has turned a deaf ear towards his prayers and has stopped listening to his troubles. God does not listen to his cries and sobs anymore, and all his prayers are getting bounced back with no answers.
In the upcoming lines, the speaker further goes on in complaining about his bad luck and poor fate. He describes that he hates, in fact, loathes his fate, which is evident from the words "curse my fate." The speaker comments that he looks at himself considers his state and then curses his luck that why all this has happened with him. Although, the speaker has not mentioned his exact conditions or the reasons that why he is in such a gloomy state but seems like he is going through some sort of financial crisis, which has further resulted in social turmoil as well. Maybe this is the reason speaker's depression, and it has caused him to hate everything and everyone around him.
Moving on a little further, the speaker mentions his desires, his unfulfilled wishes, which he always wished for but were never given to him. He suggests that he wishes to be more hopeful; he wishes that he was happy and joyous like all the other people in the world, but alas, the hope has died for him. He mentions that he wishes he was a little more blessed, like all the other men in the world. The speaker has mentioned some people, without giving out their names that he wishes he had an artistic mind like that specific person, or he was famous as another particular person. The speaker has also expressed his desire of becoming a socially popular person. He wishes that he had such a personality that is liked by everyone and everyone wants to become their friend, but again, sadly the speaker has not been blessed with any such trait, which makes his heartbreak.
In the second sestet, the speaker takes a sharp turn and drifts towards another type of emotion, joy. The speaker mentions this change in the words “Haply I think on thee, and then my state." He states that in such a time of gloominess and despair, he thinks of his beloved and it brings immense joy to him. The thought of his love sends a feeling of enormous peace in his whole body, and he feels soothed. He feels so thrilled on the thought of his beloved that no one can imagine. The speaker explains your thought makes me feel like I am the wealthiest person in the world, much wealthier even than the kings.
In short, it can be concluded that Shakespeare has written his poem, Sonnet 29, in a very gloomy and depressed state. The speaker, mentioned in the poem has become entirely hopeless and has lost all charm in life. Nothing makes him happy except the thought of his beloved, whom he can imagine smiling. Whenever the poet brings the smiling face of his beloved in his imagination, he feels happy, and his face also lights up with happiness.
Kinney, Clare R. "Escaping the Void: Isolation, Mutuality, and Community in the Sonnets of Wroth and Shakespeare." Mary Wroth and Shakespeare. Routledge, 2014. 31-42.
Shakespeare, William. The sonnets. Vol. 26. Cambridge University Press, 1996.
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