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Sonnet 29 Theme of Wealth

In Sonnet 29, Shakespeare is all about toying with the differences between spiritual wealth and economic wealth. When the sonnet opens, the speaker feels spiritually bankrupt—he's lost all hope and feels like God doesn't care about him. At the same time, the speaker uses some specific language that makes us think he's suffering some real economic hardship as well. In the end, however, our speaker decides that the memory of someone's "sweet love" is enough to make him feel such personal and spiritual "wealth" that he wouldn't trade places with the richest and most powerful of men on earth. See "Themes: Friendship" and "Themes: Religion" for more on this.

Questions About Wealth

  1. Is there evidence in the sonnet that the speaker is financially broke? If so, do we have any idea why that is?
  2. According to the Sonnet, what's better--spiritual wealth or economic wealth?
  3. What role does punning play in Shakespeare's development of the wealth theme?
  4. Some people think this sonnet is about Shakespeare's loss of income when the theaters closed down during the plague (1592-1594). Is there any evidence in the sonnet to support this theory?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

When the speaker complains to us that he's not a baller like some other more successful guys, it seems like he's experiencing some financial hardships that have also led him to feel spiritually bankrupt.

Shakespeare puns on financial terms throughout the sonnet not to be cheesy, but to remind us that there are two kinds of wealth in this world: spiritual and monetary.

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