Lust and the Degeneration of Man Exposed in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129

Powerful Essays
Lust and the Degeneration of Man Exposed in Shakespeare’s 129th Sonnet

Love in its purest form is the most unsurpassable of all emotions, requiring intense commitment, while simultaneously providing incomparable bliss. However, often the intense desire for these feelings produces a new emotion, lust, with a craving that gives priority to obtaining an objectified person, as opposed to a very real human. Lust can be further practically defined as the inability to place selfless love on a higher pedestal than selfish desire. Shakespeare explores these conflicting definitions of lust in his 129th sonnet, condemning his animalistic variations of lust that coexist with his desire for a genuine state of love. As opposed to following the traditional convention of idealizing a woman and her attributes, Shakespeare breaks the concordance and focuses on the dehumanizing effect of the woman’s attributes on his character.

The general trend in this sonnet is the speaker’s analysis of the mental methods through which he has admired a woman. He attempts to craftily define lust so as to rationalize his actions to be correct. However, he gradually gains the knowledge that the lust he has felt is sacrilegious, and must cease. Sonnet 129 opens as the speaker is in great distress due to the shallow quality that has permeated his love. He feels as though he has been exhausted of his physical, mental, and moral strength in his pursuit for mutual love. An "expense of spirit in a waste of shame" is the mark of an ill-fated desire that has missed its point of satisfaction, lost in a deep cavern of an inescapable nature. When humans fall into such depths of despair, it is quite natural to fall back into the animalistic undertones that creep ste...

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Works Cited

Fineman, Joel. Shakespeare's Perjured Eye : The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets. Berkeley, U of California P, 1988.

Leisham, Stephen. The Riddle of Shakespeare's Sonnets. New York: Basic Books, 1982.

Landry, Scott. ed. A Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

Martin, Philip. Shakespeare's Sonnets: Self, Love and Art. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1972.

Shakespeare, William. Shakespeare's Sonnets. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.

Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard UP, 1999.

Winny, James. The Master-Mistress; A Study of Shakespeare's Sonnets. London: Chatto and Windus, 1968.

Works Consulted

Fiedler, Leslie A. "Some Contexts of Shakespeare's Sonnets." The Riddle of Shakespeare's Sonnets. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962.
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