Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare begins with the speaker describing moments of great sadness, in which he cries over his "outcast state" by himself. This "outcast state" may refer to either a generally unfavorable standing in society or a lack of financial success in the playwriting field. One possible explanation for this lack of success is the closing of London theatres in 1592 due to a plague epidemic. Another suggested reason for Shakespeare's "outcast state" is an instance of harsh public criticism of Shakespeare by fellow playwright Robert Greene. The attack may have had a deep impact on Shakespeare. Yet another possibility of the meaning of the "outcast state" is that, rather simply, the man was outcast. The speaker then says that in these times he "trouble[s] deaf heaven with his bootless cries", meaning he feels his prayers and exhortations are to no avail. The word "trouble" has particular interest because it suggests that he believes his prayers bother heaven, which shows a general exhaustion of hope and faith on the part of the speaker. He continues by wishing himself to be like someone with more prospects, someone more attractive, someone with more friends, and someone with greater artistic skill and range of opportunity. The speaker then reveals that he is least satisfied in the things he enjoys most.
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
The "turn" at the beginning of the third quatrain occurs when the poet by chance ("haply") happens to think upon the young man to whom the poem is addressed, which makes him assume a more optimistic view of his own life. The speaker compares such a change in mood to a lark rising from the early morning darkness at sunrise, singing "hymns at heaven's gate." This expression was most probably the inspiration for American poet Wallace Stevens when he...