This poem is a traditional sonnet, with the first eight lines, an octave, showing the dark, depressing mood of the speaker. Suddenly a happy, more joyous tone, the sonnet transitions to a sestet, the last six lines of the poem.
The first tone that is portrayed is despair. Because of the plague, all of the actors and playwrights had very little work to do since all of the theatres had been closed down. The poem reads, “When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state.” Shakespeare uses these lines to illustrate how alone and lost the speaker feels. Because there aren’t any plays to write or perform, he is making very little money, and feels in disgrace with fortune. However, as the sonnet continues, we see the speaker’s mood lighten.
In the second part of the octave, we see the speaker’s second tone portrayed. The speaker is now feeling jealous of what other people have, and starts to wish that he was better looking, and had more friends. “Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope.” The speaker is envious of others, but his emotions start to change, and he goes from being jealous of others to relatively happy rather quickly.
In the sextet, the last part of the poem, we see a hopeful or happy tone. Shakespeare illustrates the speaker as a happy person that is content with his state. The first four lines of the sestet illustrate how when the speaker started to think about his lover, he immediately transitioned to a happy state. “Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, haply I think on...