I can confidently say that this is by far my favourite Shakespearean sonnet. Simply called Sonnet 29, it is simple and beautiful and has therefore been mentioned and recited in film and television many times over the years. It has featured in all sorts of places, from Star Trek to Pretty Woman, which is why I’m baffled as to why I can not seem to find an actual clip of the sonnet being recited in any such form.
Of course, that’s no reason to overlook this masterpiece, and what better way to hear it than from the lilting voice of the great Al Pacino?
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 possess’d,
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 remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
– William Shakespeare