Shakespeare's Sonnets By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Sonnet 29

Summary

Resenting his bad luck, the poet envies the successful art of others and rattles off an impressive catalogue of the ills and misfortunes of his life. His depression is derived from his being separated from the young man, even more so because he envisions the youth in the company of others while the poet is "all alone."

Stylistically, Sonnet 29 is typically Shakespearean in its form. The first eight lines, which begin with "When," establish a conditional argument and show the poet's frustration with his craft. The last six lines, expectedly beginning in line 9 with "Yet" — similar to other sonnets' "But" — and resolving the conditional argument, present a splendid image of a morning lark that "sings hymns at heaven's gate." This image epitomizes the poet's delightful memory of his friendship with the youth and compensates for the misfortunes he has lamented.

The uses of "state" unify the sonnet's three different sections: the first eight lines, lines 9 through 12, and the concluding couplet, lines 13 and 14. Additionally, the different meanings of state — as a mood and as a lot in life — contrast the poet's sense of a failed and defeated life to his exhilaration in recalling his friendship with the youth. One state, as represented in lines 2 and 14, is his state of life; the other, in line 10, is his state of mind. Ultimately, although the poet plaintively wails his "outcast state" in line 2, by the end of the sonnet he has completely reversed himself: ". . . I scorn to change my state with kings." Memories of the young man rejuvenate his spirits.

Glossary

bootless useless.

haply perhaps.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How many of Shakespeare's sonnets dwell on a religious theme?




Quiz