Thursday, September 15, 2016

All You Need is Love

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Sonnet 29 reveals the insecurities that trouble a speaker. He feels unlucky, inadequate, and extremely jealous of those around him. The speaker is introspective and also somewhat self-absorbed. The speaker also seems upset with God because “heav’n” has been ignoring him. By the end of the sonnet, the speaker emerges from his state of depression, claiming a mystery person’s “sweet love” brings him happiness and makes him rich. 

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(Turns out the Beatles were just quoting Shakespeare.)
I compared Sonnet 29 to Sonnet 50. Both 29 and 50 deal with themes of depression, loneliness, and hopelessness. Sonnet 50 differs from 29 though, because the speaker in sonnet 50 never finds a way out of the despair. The speaker proclaims at the end, "My grief lies onward and my joy behind." The speaker in sonnet 29 successfully climbs out of the dark place by merely thinking about someone significant in his life. Maybe if the speaker in sonnet 50 had a lover he wouldn't be as sad and lonely?

In Sonnet 29, the volta comes at line 9, where it switches from the speaker's loneliness and depression to his sudden realization that he has someone who loves him and who makes him happy. Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,/ Haply I think on thee (9-10). As I discussed this volta with Nik, we noted the vagueness of the “thee.”  In the couplet at the end, the speaker repeats that it is “sweet love” that makes him feel rich and content. So the question is, what kind of “sweet love” is he talking about? It appears there are a few different options.

Platonic Love
Since the speaker moaned so much early on about feeling "all alone" and not having any "friends," it seems  he could be talking about friendship here, as if he suddenly remembers that he does have a friend after all: "thee."

Sexual Love

The article I read on Schmoop explained that Shakespeare is playing around with a common conceit found in courtly love poetry, where a lover is said to "worship" his beloved. I also found an article using EBSCO, and it focuses more on the historical context of Sonnet 29, rather than straight content analysis. It expounds on Shakespeare’s feelings of inadequacy and self-consciousness (rather than the speaker's)—specifically about Edmund Spenser. Considering Shakespeare’s life, it’s likely he wrote this sonnet romantically for another man.

Religious Love

On the other hand, the speaker talks about the addressee's "sweet love" as if it's some kind of religious experience in lines 10-12. It appears that the speaker is no longer in a state of spiritual despair by the end, but he doesn't seem to give God credit for it because the speaker doesn't say that God has put him in a better mood. The speaker avoids saying God's name (he uses the word "heaven"). He says that thinking about "thee" makes him happy, so perhaps "thee" could act as a representation for some sort of personal spirituality or salvation. 

The speaker could also be referring to either of the following:
Intellectual Love
Familial Love

Still, there isn’t enough information given to determine the "thee" in this sonnet, so it’s up to the reader to decide.


  1. First of all, great title because it really caught my attention. Secondly, I think the break down of the different types of love being presented made it very user friendly and I appreciated that! Great job.

  2. I enjoyed the discussion of whether Shakespeare was referring to platonic, sexual, or religious love. Personally, it seems unlikely that Shakespeare referred to religious love, given his romantic history and the context of his life (as you mention). But who knows, maybe Shakespeare wrote this right after he left a particularly uplifting sermon ;)

  3. I love your view of this sonnet! I analyzed this sonnet as well, and chose to focus on a homosexual love that was displayed there, but I actually like your ideas better. It's nice to think that Shakespeare made this ambiguous in order to appeal to all sorts of people and all sorts of love. You rule.