One of the reasons why the sonnets of William Shakespeare are being often referred to, as such, that represent a particularly high literary/philosophical value, is that the themes and motives, contained in them, reflect the actual essence of people’s foremost existential anxieties (Edmonson and Wells 212).
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This could not be otherwise, because by being exposed to many of Shakespeare’s sonnets, people are able to realize the sheer acuteness of their deep-seated desire to attain a social prominence, to find happiness in love and to confront the inevitability of death.
In this paper, I will explore the validity of this suggestion, in regards to the Sonnets 29 and 73, while comparing and contrasting both of these masterworks, within the context of what accounts for the discursive significance of how they address the theme of people’s most pressing unconscious longings, mentioned earlier.
It will not be much of an exaggeration to suggest that the main theme, explored in the Sonnet 29, has to do with the sensation of frustration that people get to experience, after having realized that they have failed in making their lives count, in the social sense of this word.
The validity of this statement can be illustrated, in regards to the Sonnet’s initial lines, in which the author laments the fact that he is anything, but a socially respected individual:
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state (1-2).
After all, there can be only a few doubts that the allegory of ‘being in disgrace with fortune’ refers to one’s inability to gain the respect of other domination-seeking men. Nevertheless, there is still the spirit of positivity to the above-quoted lines, as they do extrapolate the author’s unconscious hope that the described emotional state, on his part, is temporary.
After all, the very adverb ‘when’, used by the author, implies that there are also moments when the thoughts of being disfavored by fortune do not bother him.
In this respect, the Sonnet 73 appears to differ rather substantially. The reason for this is that, while reflecting the author’s existential frustration, it makes a deliberate point in accentuating the frustration’s objectivity. Apparently, while writing it, Shakespeare remained thoroughly aware of the fact that it is specifically during the time of one’s youthful years that the concerned individual may have the expectations of a social advancement, in the first place.
Allegorically speaking, in order to be in the position to compete with others for the place under the Sun, one must be ‘fueled’ with youthfulness (Forrest 215). Therefore, the below-quoted lines from the Sonnet 73 can be well interpreted, as such, that reflect the author’s realization that, due to being no longer young and cheerful, he is doomed to spend the rest of his days in misery:
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie (9-10).
It is needless to mention, of course, that in the discursive sense of this word, it alone makes the Sonnet 73 much gloomier than the Sonnet 29.
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The legitimacy of the above-stated may also be shown, in regards to how both Sonnets tackle the theme of love. For example, even though in the Sonnet 29, Shakespeare does complain about the fact that is not quite worthy of the subject of his love, he simultaneously implies that the romantic sensation in question is more than capable of providing him with the chance to feel self-actualized:
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings (13-14).
Once, a particular person attains the state of a self-actualization (such as by the mean of having succeeded in bringing about the state of union with the object of its romantic desire), he can no longer be considered prone to the thoughts of depression:
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising (10-11).
In its turn, this empowers such a person rather substantially. While discouraged from becoming preoccupied with self-reflecting, due his newly found happiness in love, he no longer experiences the sensation of frustration – hence, growing increasingly capable of adopting an active stance in life.
However, as it was mentioned earlier, it is specifically young people, who are being capable of not only enjoying love, but also of turning it into the actual source of their existential inspiration – older people experience love in the somewhat different manner. That is, instead of seeking to take practical advantage of love, as a life-empowering tool, they strive to enjoy the state of being romantically involved with another person, as a ‘thing in itself’.
The above-mentioned directly relates to the way, in which Shakespeare proceeded to reflect upon his love-longings in the Sonnet 73. The rationale behind this suggestion is quite apparent. First, in this particular Sonnet, the author leaves only a few doubts, as to what happened to be his age:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang (1-2).
Apparently, Shakespeare wrote this Sonnet, while remaining fully acknowledged of his rather advanced years – the allegory of ‘yellow leaves, or none’ does reflect the author’s awareness that his time on Earth is nearing its end. Second, Shakespeare points out to the fact that this is exactly the reason why his ‘lady of heart’ should be enjoying the experience of having fallen in love with him to the fullest. After all, according to the author, this experience will prove short-lived:
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long (13-14).
As opposed to what it is being the case with how the author went about expounding on the significance of his romantic feelings in the Sonnet 29, in the Sonnet 73 he ended up referring to the notion of love, as the actual purpose of one’s existence, and not as merely the mean of such an existence’s enhancement.
Thus, it will be thoroughly appropriate, on our part, to suggest that the earlier analyzed Sonnets can be well regarded as being subliminal of what accounted for the consequential phases of the author’s physically-driven intellectual maturation.
Edmonson, Paul and Stanley Wells. “The Plurality of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” Shakespeare Survey 65 (2012): 211-220. Print.
Forrest, Simon. “Young Men in Love: The (Re)making of Heterosexual Masculinities Through ‘Serious’ relationships.” Sexual & Relationship Therapy 25.2 (2010): 206-218. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 29. Web. <http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/sonnet/29>
Shakespeare, William. Sonnet 73. Web. <http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/73detail.html>