Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Wishing me like one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
- Now, the speaker starts thinking about all the stuff he wishes he had and gets jealous of all the other men around him who have more stuff going for them.
- Let's start with line 5—we can read it a couple of different ways:
- 1) The speaker wishes he was like someone who is more hopeful about his future;
- 2) The speaker wishes he was like someone who has a better chance of becoming "rich," or wealthy.
- Hmm. That's interesting. The pun on the word "rich" here sends us back to line 1, where the speaker puns on the word "fortune."
- So what? Well, all this punning on words related to money tells us that Shakespeare is making a distinction between two very different kinds of wealth: spiritual wealth and monetary riches. At this point, our speaker seems like he's flat out broke in both senses, even though he hasn't come right out and said so.
- Our speaker does say that he wishes he was good-looking ("featured") like this one guy and that he had a lot of friends like this other guy. Also, he wishes he had some other dude's talent ("art") and yet another guy's ability or opportunity ("scope").
- Is it just us, or does he sound like that old-school Skee-Lo song "I Wish"? ("I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller. I wish I had a girl who looked good. I would call her.")
- By the way, who the heck is the speaker talking to in this sonnet? Himself? God? Some generic audience? Someone specific? Maybe reading on will give us an idea.
With what I most enjoy contented least;
- Here, the speaker uses paradox when he claims that what he "most enjoy[s]" is the same stuff that makes him the least content, or least happy. Huh? (That's almost as confusing as the phrase "fair is foul, foul is fair" from Macbeth.)
- Basically, the speaker is feeling sorry for himself (and sort of being a poetic show-off ) as he thinks about all the stuff that he used to love but no longer enjoys because he's now in such a miserable state.
- FYI: we know from Sonnet 18 that the speaker of the Sonnets is a poet.
- By the way, Shakespeare is also dropping a little chiasmus on us here, Shmoopsters. He tends to do this whenever the speaker of the Sonnets is getting all analytical and has had time, as critic Helen Vendler puts it, to "think things out and judge them."
- You know what that means, right? Our speaker is about to have an "Ah-ha!" moment...