Featured Sonnet #66: Tired with all these, for restful death I cry...
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly--doctor-like--controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
Shakespeare's sonnets are filled with indeterminate pronouns, and in Sonnet #66 our focus naturally falls upon determining precisely what the narrator is referring to by "all these." In the next eleven lines, our interest is only partially satisfied. The narrator produces a roster of injustices that are apparently common to the age in which he lives. During his life, the narrator asserts, that what is trivial is held in high esteem and that what is of genuine value is disparaged. We gain the sense that the narrator has particular and personal injustices in mind, yet he writes only in generalities. Some of these, such as "art made tongue-tied by authority" seem to have a connection to the narrator; presented without distinction from the former, others appears to have no such association, as when the narrator complains that "maiden virtue (is) rudely strumpeted." Our frustration (mirroring the narrator's own mood) builds as the sonnet takes a flat shape, obliterating the customary form of the sonnet through an unbroken succession of lines that begin with the simple conjunctive "And." We never achieve a firm grasp of why the narrator is in a state of despair. The concluding couplet sheds no light on the matter. There the narrator merely states that he would prefer to die rather than witness the normative deficiencies of his age were it not for the fact that this would leave his love alone.
I found an interesting statistical approach to finding out when the sonnets were written. Worth a look if you like numbers and stats.
A good essay on Shakespeare sonnets at this site.