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"Fortune" and "Fate"

Symbol Analysis

The speaker likes to toss around the words "fortune" and "fate" in this sonnet—mostly because he feels like he's had a lot of really crummy luck in his personal life. Is this really true? We're not sure, but we do know one thing, though, Shmoopsters. Our speaker is not taking any personal responsibility for the way his life is going. Should we be sympathetic? Is Shakespeare trying to show us that all human beings are vulnerable to chance and the kinds of circumstances that are so often out of our control? In other words, the sonnet could be saying something like "Hey, sometimes bad things just happen to good people and there's nothing we can do to change that."

  • Line 1: Our speaker starts things off by telling us that he's in "disgrace with fortune." In a general sense, he just means that he's out of favor with fortune, or is having some rotten luck. Gee. Why's that? It's also possible Shakespeare means to personify fortune as Dame Fortuna, the goddess of fate and free will. (In the original 1609 edition of the sonnets, the word fortune is spelled with a capital "F.") Shakespeare LOVES to personify Fortune. Remember the time in Hamlet when the Prince of Denmark calls "fortune" a "strumpet" and blames her for his dad's death and his mom's hasty remarriage to a murderer (Hamlet 2.2.16)?
  • The Goddess of Fortune has a rep for being totally unpredictable and unreliable. She can raise men up to great heights or cast them down at any moment with the spin of her wheel. 
  • So, it kind of sounds like our speaker doesn't want to take any personal responsibility for his crummy life and is happy to blame someone else and play the victim.
  • It's also possible our speaker is punning on fortune in order to imply that he's financially broke. (Hmm. Is that why he's feels like he's got bad luck?)
  • Line 4: This is where our speaker says he looks at himself and his situation in life and "curses [his] fate." Again, dude's not taking any responsibility for whatever it is that has made his life so bad. But, in the lines that follow, he's more than happy to tell us what's wrong: he's poor (we sort of suspected this guy was broke), he's not very good looking, he's got no friends, no talent, and prospects for the future (5-7). All in all: bad times.

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