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 shows that like Fortune, the men must have power. Women, in Shakespeare’s time did not have as many rights as they do now, and by excluding their opinion from mattering, Shakespeare sets the women apart.
Shakespeare then sets his persona apart in line two. “I all alone beweep my outcast state” are his exact words. He is alone, and he is despairing. The persona, in disgrace with both men and Fortune, lets his emotions out, but he is in isolation. Because he is in disgrace with the aforementioned entities, the persona has nobody to weep to or be comforted by. This is his “outcast state.” Yet it is a state. States can change, and often do. Therefore, Shakespeare is reinforcing to the reader that this is a temporary thing. By using words such as “when” and “state,” he is forcing the reader to think that soon these things will end. Soon the disgrace and the isolation will cease to exist for the persona.
Perhaps the isolation and disgrace will end because of Fortune, a seemingly higher power. It does seem as if a higher power is in fact called upon. In line three Shakespeare writes, “And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.” So, the persona is pleading and praying to heaven apparently. He does not seem very...