with what i most enjoy contented least

in disgrace (1): out of favor. beweep (2): weep over (my outcast state). outcast state (2): The poet's "outcast state" is possibly an allusion to his lack of work as an actor due to the closing of the theatres in 1592 (during an ). It also could be a reference to the attack on Shakespeare at the hands of Robert Greene. Please see the commentary below for more on Shakespeare and Greene. bootless (3): useless. Shakespeare uses the word seventeen times in the plays. Compare
He robs himself that spends a bootless grief. (1. 3. 225-6) Compare also For they have fought for Rome, and all in vain; And they have nursed this woe, in feeding life; In bootless prayer have they been held up, Is that the one will help to cut the other. (3. 1. 75-80) Interestingly, the phrase "bootless cries" appears in, an anonymous play that many now believe Shakespeare wrote. look upon myself (4): i. e. , I become occupied with self-reflection. Featured like him (6): i. e. , the features (physical beauty) of some other more attractive man.


Sonnet 29 shows the poet at his most insecure and troubled. He feels unlucky, shamed, and fiercely jealous of those around him. What causes the poet's anguish will remain a mystery; as will the answer to whether the sonnets are autobiographical. However, an examination of Shakespeare's life around the time he wrote Sonnet 29 reveals two traumatic events that may have shaped the theme of the sonnet. In 1592 the London theatres closed due to a severe outbreak of plague. Although it is possible that Shakespeare toured the outlying areas of London, it is almost certain that he left the theatre entirely during this time to work on his sonnets and narrative poems. The closing of the playhouses made it hard for Shakespeare and other actors of the day to earn a living. With plague and poverty looming it is expected that he would feel "in disgrace with fortune" (1).


Moreover, in 1592 there came a scathing attack on Shakespeare by dramatist Robert Greene, who, in a deathbed diary ( A Groats-worth of Wit ), warned three of his fellow university-educated playwrights: "There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you; and, beeing an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his owne conceit the only Shakescene in a countrey. " One can only imagine what grief this assault this deathbed assault must have caused Shakespeare. Greene was nothing if not thorough: first, using a line from Shakespeare's own 3 (1. 4. 138), he describes Shakespeare as a pompous, scheming, vicious ingrate, riding the coattails of better writers (no doubt Shakespeare performed in a play Greene had himself written; then he adds that Shakespeare was a conceited ("only Shakescene") and insignificant jack of all trades (a "Johannes factotum").


Greene lets even more insults fly as he continues: "O that I might intreat your rare wits to be imploied in more profitable courses: When I m in disgrace with everyone and my luck has deserted me, I sit all alone and cry about the fact that I m an outcast, and bother God with useless cries, which fall on deaf ears, and look at myself and curse my fate, wishing that I had more to hope for, wishing I had this man s good looks and that man s friends, this man s skills and that man s opportunities, and totally dissatisfied with the things I usually enjoy the most. Yet, as I m thinking these thoughts and almost hating myself, I happen to think about you, and then my condition improves like a lark at daybreak rising up and leaving the earth far behind to sing hymns to God. For when I remember your sweet love, I feel so wealthy that I d refuse to change places even with kings.

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