StructuralismˇXSonnet 29 by Shakespeare
When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
According to my understanding, structuralism provides an idea that there is a universal system of literary work. This system can analyze literary work from basis; for examples, how words become meaningful when they are put into language, how the grammatical functionsˇXAdj., N., V. --function in the system of language, how binary-- the relationship of two opposite words-- ˇ§ in the whole system of languageˇ¨ acts out their own meanings, how do we analyze literary works from their basis elementsˇXSubject/Object, Sender/Receiver, Helper/OpponentˇXto see their function in the literary work of language and etc. Therefore, in brief, structuralisms generalize the importance of language usage and how it works in the literary works rather than only emphasize on the individual work and its content.
In this journal, I will discuss how structuralism-- three opposite binaries and grammatical usage-- works in Shakespeareˇ¦s Sonnet 29. In our group discussion, we get a basic concept that Shakespeare was making a conflict in his inner mind and trying to work out by his own thinking. First, we can see clearly that he sends his misfortune to heaven, but heaven canˇ¦t hear his calling. And obviously he fails to get response. But we all know that certainly heaven canˇ¦t hear him; so in another aspect, he himself is the one who receives his own crying. From the whole poem, he complains his state in his own mind and he answers his own complaints by himself and in the end, he finds his way out, so we can say he sends his message to his inner self and his inner self receives the message; in other words, he talks to himself and gets the response from himself.
We can easily find out Shakespeare become confidence again by ˇ§think on theeˇ¨. So undoubtedly, thee successfully help him to become brave and to face the pressure from out world. He views others as opponents and he even curses his fate, but that is his own thinking, so he himself opposes to he himself and therefore, to him, heaven becomes deaf heaven. we see ˇ§think on theeˇ¨ which helps him to walk through, but that is ˇ§his thinkingˇ¨. And actually, he conflicts in his inner mind, but he indeed helps his thinking to look into other aspectsˇXthink on thee, therefore he can defeat his despising self and transfer deaf heaven into hopeful place, heaven becomes different heaven. We know that heaven doesnˇ¦t change, but we can say his mental state changes, so from beginning to the end, he plays roles of helper and opponent. As for me, I think the whole poem is about searching self and how does he find out by the help of thee, therefore, the poem is about his mental state and how does he successfully identify himself. But because thee play a significant role in the poem and from the structuralism of Shakespeareˇ¦s poem, we know that the last two lines are most important, therefore, some people identify the object of this poem is about ˇ§theeˇ¨. The more I repeat the last six lines, the more I think the main point is about ˇ§theeˇ¨; however, if I reread the three ˇ§my stateˇ¨ I restart to think it is about self-identity, so the Object is quite ambiguous. In conclusion, I list both ˇ§I and theeˇ¨ as Object.
We find out that Shakespeare uses a lot of repetition in Sonnet 29. He uses three ˇ§my stateˇ¨ to stress on his thinking; although the three ˇ§my stateˇ¨ looks the same, but its meaning turns from despising into proud. If we pick up the three ˇ¨my stateˇ¨ from the poem, and look at them individually, its meaning is oneˇ¦s inner and outer mind. However, because now it is put into the system of the poem and for our whole concept of the poem, the three ˇ§my stateˇ¨ has three different meaning. We know the meaning of larkˇXa kind of morning bird, but he emphasizes again ˇ§at break of dayˇ¨ and that make the meaning of renew even more strong. The Adj.ˇXbootlessˇXnot only means useless, but it seems connect with reality that he doesnˇ¦t have boot to wear and that shows out how poor he is. From the whole poem, we find out that in the first 8 lines, there are many Adjs. As we know, Adj. is used to describe oneˇ¦s emotion and we think it 100% performs well in feeling his despising self. As for the usage of verb, we think it shows growth and decline of I. From line 1 to 4, ˇ§Iˇ¨ still exist and verb uses normal pattern of sentence structure to exist but at this time, the state of ˇ§Iˇ¨ is quite low. From line 5 to 9, Shakespeare apparently uses participleˇXWishing, Featured, Desiring, contented and despisingˇXto instead the lack of real verb and he simultaneously loses himself. But there is another point that the position of ˇ§contented and despisingˇ¨ is different from the position of ˇ§Wishing, Featured and Desiringˇ¨, therefore, I think that maybe is a presuppose of changing tone and also a turn of his mood, for he doesnˇ¦t put stress on ˇ§contented and despisingˇ¨ so much. From line 10 to 14, verb turns back to its original function and makes the tone change from despising to proud. So from the usage of verb, we find out it indeed shows out the tone of the poem.
It is true that every word not only has its meaning, but its meaning becomes even more abundant from how it acts and our concept of the word in the literary work. As I mentioned before, ˇ§my stateˇ¨ wonˇ¦t become so meaningful if we look at them individually; bootless can only means useless if we donˇ¦t know the original of the word and if we only view verb as verb without thinking its position and it usage, we wonˇ¦t get another aspect to view Shakespeareˇ¦s mind. As for the universal system of literary work, I think it exists for we can find so many connections in Sonnet 29, but I think the content of literary work should work even more than its structuralism. There must be structure in all literary work; however, our main purpose to read literary work is to get what writers want to inform. So Structuralism can be only a guide to help us analyze and understand literary work.