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Sonnet 29 and Sonnet 130
Shakespeare explores love in an untraditional way in these two sonnets. Rather than going on and on about how wonderful is lover is, he starts his sonnets with more of a melancholy mood. He lists the qualities about his love that are less than desirable in Sonnet 130, and in 29, he complains about his lack of social standing and extraordinary talents. What's interesting in these two sonnets is that about halfway through the poem, he turns. None of those negative aspects of his life matter any more, because he loves and is loved by a woman. Ernest Sutherland Bates points out the difference in this kind of comparison when compared with Petrarchan sonnets. Before Shakespeare, love was seen as the source of all unhappiness, and any other misfortunes paled in comparison to that of lost love. However, Shakespeare flips this way of thinking and instead uses love as the source of all happiness, while everything else in his world goes wrong.
Shakespeare and Popular Opinion
In discussing Sonnet 29 with others, it became apparent that the thought of a loved one is often a motivating factor when someone is faced with opposition. Everyone experiences days where things are going less than swimmingly, and it is not a foreign feeling to feel alone, belittled, and hopeless. Everyone feels this way at some point or another. How does one escape these feelings, however? Shakespeare suggests that the most prominent of all these escapes is love. In Sonnet 29, he writes, "Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, haply I think on thee... thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings that then I scorn to change my state with kings." Popular opinion suggests that Shakespeare isn't that far from the mark. The thought of a loved one, and having someone who brings happiness into one's life, makes it easier to persevere when things get hard. All is not lost when there are people to love.
While Shakespeare's approach to love may be less than conventional, especially in his time, he seems to strike a central theme still prevalent in society today. Things are never perfect, but as Shakespeare pens, love is higher than all of life's misfortunes.