Critical Analysis of Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) lived in a time of religious turbulence. During the Renaissance people began to move away from the Church. Authors began to focus on the morals of the individual and on less lofty ideals than those of the Middle Ages. Shakespeare wrote one-hundred fifty-four sonnets during his lifetime. Within these sonnets he largely explored romantic love, not the love of God. In Sonnet 29 Shakespeare uses specific word choice and rhyme to show the reader that it is easy to be hopeful when life is going well, but love is always there, for rich and poor alike, even when religion fails.
The first line is “When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes.” The very first word shows that the condition which will be explored in the sonnet is a temporary thing. It comes and goes like a beggar or like an outcast. Shakespeare used the word “when” to put the reader into the time that will be referred to. It automatically calls to mind an occurrence, and it makes the reader continue into the piece, trying to find out what Shakespeare will make occur. The next words are “in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes.” It seems that Shakespeare’s persona is down on his luck. Fortune, noticeably, is capitalized. This makes it a proper noun, a name perhaps. Shakespeare, on the other hand, could be trying to show the reader that fortune is something important, something that has power and meaning. Continuing into the line, “men’s eyes” appears. Notice that it is men’s eyes, not women’s eyes or man’s eyes. The latter, man’s eyes, would make it seem as if the persona was in disgrace with all of mankind, yet Shakespeare specifically chose to have disgrace in “men’s eyes.” This sh...
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...with the Fortune to become kings.
William Shakespeare shows the reader that religious hope is easy to come by when life is going well, but in the case of the persona it is even easier to fall away from religion. All that anyone truly has to fall back on is love. Love exists for both the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless. It costs nothing, and it breeds hope as well as happiness. To Shakespeare and his persona hope and happiness are worth more than all the jewels and gold a king could have. Gold and jewels are just items, and while they may glitter and shine, they cannot bring a man to Heaven. Whether it is physical, emotional, or religious, only love has the power to bring a man to the gates of Heaven.
Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 29”. English and Western Literature. Ed George Kearns. New
York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1984.
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