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A Lover’s Consolation

Shakespeare wrote many sonnets that portray different themes of love. One of his sonnets that received great interest is Sonnet 29. This sonnet has remained popular even up to now because of its theme. Lovers can easily relate to it despite the depth in the use of figurative language and imagery. Just like any poem, Sonnet 29 has three important elements, the persona, addressee, and situation. We can say that the persona is a male lover, based on the way he compares himself to a king. The addressee is none other than the lover to whom the persona describes his situation and feelings.

The Theme In the first two lines, the persona cites his situation or an experience he goes through. The word “when” expresses an impermanent condition when he feels unfortunate. As he mentions, this situation makes him pity himself (“beweep my outcast state” l. 2 ) and even “curse his fate. ” (l. 4). In the next two lines (6-7), the persona elaborates what goes on in his mind whenever he is in misery. Like the persona, readers can relate to this human experience. Misery is a situation everyone encounters.

Whenever one is in this condition, it is common to feel sorry for oneself, or even to question God. The persona expresses his wish to be like those who possess many friends, those who have “art” or talent, and those who have “scope” or property. The human experience thus employed here is envy. This theme is probably one of those that make the poem very relevant. Many people resort to wishful thinking whenever they face misfortune. Like the persona, many of us, even non-lovers would wish to be someone else luckier. Even the rich people would wish to be someone else.

As such, Shakespeare succeeds in portraying a universal experience in this poem. The author’s craftsmanship does not end in the first half of the sonnet (l. 1-7). In fact, it commences in the other half (l. 8-14). From great pain and envy, the persona rethinks about his life and sees something positive to it. Here, he mentions the consolations he has that make him feel like a winner. In line 13, he reveals that the love of his woman gives him so much joy that is comparable to the fortunes of other men. He notes that the mere thought of her makes him happy and fortunate.

The theme presented in the other half of the poem totally negates that in the first half. Nevertheless, both of them are universal themes that apply to anyone. In particular, lovers can relate to it in the same manner as the persona experiences love, while those who have not found love can still do by remembering the love of their family or friends. Suffice to mention, love is probably the best consolation we can ever have if we do not possess wealth or fame. Shakespeare’s use of several themes such as love, misfortune, envy makes the poem a good mirror of reality.

Unlike other authors who can only focus on one general theme, Shakespeare is able to present all three yet make them unified in the whole emotional experience. He succeeds in doing this by employing transition in the way the persona feels throughout the poem. Literary Devices Obviously, the poet expresses the human experience through the use of a number of literary devices. These include antithesis, metonymy, anacoluthon, simile, and personification. Noticeably, the poem has two parts equally divided into seven lines each.

As discussed above, the first half states the misfortune of the persona, while the second half pursues a different meaning through the use of antithesis. In these lines, the persona expresses total contradiction to the feelings he expressed in the first half. Here are contradictory terms appearing in the two parts: First half Second half Disgrace, outcast state, cries wealth; sweet love; lark at break of day; arising from sullen earth Trouble deaf Heaven Sings hymns at heaven’s gate Look upon myself; Curse my fate Happ’ly I think on thee; scorn to change my state with kings

In the first part, the author builds up a thesis that states his misfortune in life. He supports this with terms to express his feelings. In the second half, he de-establishes this with terms to contradict those in the first till he arrives at the conclusion that he prefers to stay in his present state. Aside from antithesis, the author uses a lot of metonymy. In saying he disturbs deaf “Heaven” (l. 3) with his cries, he refers to God. In line 12, he uses heaven’s gate to mean God’s kingdom or dwelling. The use of metonymy creates imagery in the poem, and illustrates the author’s belief in God.

In line 7, metonymy is used twice, with “man’s art” and “scope. ” Art here suggests talent. The persona wishes to have talent like other men. “Scope” means property or territory. The persona is envious of those who possess property. Scope here could also mean wealth or material possessions. The use of simile is noted in line 11. The persona directly compares his state with a lark that rises at dawn. This marks the hope he feels whenever he thinks of the woman. The mention of the state also suggests personification. In line 12, he assigns a human characteristic, the ability to sing.

Readers may find this quite vague to have one’s condition sing but because it follows the use of the lark, the personification is reasonably justified in this context. The use of anacoluthon or a shift in grammatical structure can be found in line 10, “Happly I think on thee—” This serves as a break in the emotional outpour in the first part. This signals the antithesis in the second part. In line 8, we find an uncommon word order that starts with a preposition, “With what I most enjoy… ” In plain language, this should read as, “The least thing that contents me is…” Shakespeare does this probably for rhyme and meter.

As we know, the sonnet follows rhythmic pattern. Therefore, he employs a different grammatical structure to achieve this. Shakespeare also uses polysyndeton in his sonnet. This is the use of a conjunction between each words, phrases, or clauses. In lines 3-4, which say, “And trouble deaf Heaven…And look upon myself…And curse my fate,” we notice the use of “and” to establish parallelism. The use of polysyndeton in this part makes the reading of the poem energetic, or in this case, it sustains the melancholy.

The universal themes depicted in the poem and the literary devices employed illustrate Shakespeare’s craftsmanship in writing poetry. This explains why people have admired this sonnet for a long time. These are also the very reasons why we readers still appreciate it even though we do not share exactly the experience of the persona. Overall, the relevance to real life experiences of the themes, and the craftsmanship Shakespeare demonstrates in it make Sonnet 29 an immortal work of art. Work Cited Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 29. ” 8 December 2008 <http://www. albionmich. com/inspiration/whenindisgrace. html>.

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