Dueling Emotions in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 129" Essay

688 Words Apr 19th, 2012 3 Pages
William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 129" is cited as an invective poem, but it is much more complicated than that. Invective poetry refers to vituperative or censoriously abusive poetry used to express blame or rebuke. "Sonnet 129" is a poem of mixed emotions and is not singularly invective. It expresses hate, but, underneath its loathing, lies layers of shame and madness. How the poem is set up is the main way the reader can see these underlying emotions.
On the surface, Shakespeare's "Sonnet 129" is an uniquely impersonal poem expressing a hate for lust. Though it is not explicitly sexual in this sonnet though. "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame" can be any exertion of energy that takes over until the need - for sex, power, money,
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"On purpose", "pursuit", and "in possession", the speaker becomes "mad" or insane with the lack of satisfaction on both ends of the spectrum (8-9). The speaker is crazed and goes to "extreme" lengths to get what he or she wants (10). Then, when that thing is achieved, it is "proved, a very woe" or something that causes distress once again (11). The shame comes from putting forth so much energy and going to such extremes to find that no satisfaction is delivered.
The last two lines of the poem serve as an overall conclusion and a warning to readers. "All this the world well knows, yet none knows well" refers to people knowing certain temptations are wrong, but not being able to resist them (13). People know how to elude lust and have the means to. The problem arises when people realize the satisfaction lust could grant them, even though it is a mere illusion. Shakespeare advises "To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell" (14). This means to ignore the "bait" that leads men into this "mad" state (7;8). This is ironic of Shakespeare because he spends the previous twelve lines of the sonnet preaching about how lust is nearly impossible to avoid once someone is faced with the temptation. He is commenting on people's need to chase after heavenly things no matter the consequences.
Shakespeare's "Sonnet 129" is a good example of the different emotions that are combined in poems of all sorts. Rarely can a poem be found that focuses on a singular

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