Shakespeare Sonnet 129 Analysis: Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Shakespeare Sonnet 129 Analysis, theme, summary and modern English translation

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This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 129. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis. It is highly recommended to buy “The Monument” by Hank Whittemore, which is the best book on Shakespeare Sonnets.

Shakespeare Sonnet 129 (Original Text)

Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action, and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows, yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
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Shakespeare Sonnet 129 Modern English (Translation)

Shakespeare Sonnet 129 modern English translation

-via SparkNotes

Shakespeare Sonnet 129 Analysis

The poet says the physical act of intercourse is a waste of energy and spirit while even shameful “Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame” he compares the action as only lust not love “Is lust in action, and till action, lust” which makes people murderous, violent and full of crime “Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,” they also become like savages who are cruel rude and not to be trusted “Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,”

He says that as soon as they enjoy such lust, they begin to despise it “Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,”Even though they will do anything to pursue it “Past reason hunted, and no sooner had, “but as soon as they swallow it bait, they begin to hate it “Past reason hated as a swallowed bait” and insist that such a temptation was purposely laid in their path to make them mad “On purpose laid to make the taker mad;”

People go mad pursuing lust and want to possess it “Mad in pursuit, and in possession so, and go to any extremes in having it, yet they become extreme even after having it “Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;” as it is proof of how a moment of bliss actually turns out something to be despised “A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;”which seems a joy when expecting it but afterwards turns out like a nightmare “Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.”

The world knows this well but at the same time they act as if they don’t “All this the world well knows, yet none knows well “ that they should actually avoid what seems like heaven but instead drives men to hell “To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”

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