Dueling Emotions in Shakespeare's "Sonnet 129"

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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, fame, or what ever else - is satisfied (1). This lack of articulation of the form of lust Shakespeare is writing about contributes to the detached nature of the poem. The speaker groups all forms of lust together stating that they are "murderous, bloody, full of blame,/ savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust" (3-4). This is why the poem is classified as invective. Shakespeare finds that as soon as lust has been satisfied, shame sets in. The speaker says lust is "a bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe" meaning that whatever one is after may look good in the beginning, but, once achieved, is always regretted. The regret is the real focus of the poem - the true nature of what the speaker is upset about. The speaker's initial hatred and personal detachment in the first four lines of the poem is belied by the remaining lines. He believes that lust is no sooner "enjoyed" than "despised" (5). The "past reason" for fulfilling such a desire is "hunted" but never found (6). Lust is "hated" by the speaker because of the shame it brings from taking such "bait" without previous contemplation of the consequences that will ensue (7). These lines are much more personal and draw on regret and compunction. The speaker has already gone through...
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