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Shakespeare Sonnet 10

Updated on February 3, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford | Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 10

The speaker so desperately desires the young man to marry and produce beautiful offspring that he resorts to exaggerating the young man's likely egotism. This sonnet sequence demonstrates the creative power and talent of the speaker's ability to dramatize his continuing and deepening wish that the young man heed his advice. He ultimately begs the lad to do it for the speaker even if he will not do it for himself.

Sonnet 10

For shame! deny that thou bear’st love to any
Who for thyself art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art belov’d of many,
But that thou none lov’st is most evident;
For thou art so possess’d with murderous hate
That ’gainst thyself thou stick’st not to conspire,
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
Shall hate be fairer lodg’d than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self, for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

Reading of Sonnet 10

Commentary

In Sonnet 10, the speaker challenges the young man’s sense of self, regarding his love and affection for others. The speaker exaggerates the lack as “murderous hate."

First Quatrain: Accusations of Selfishness

For shame! deny that thou bear’st love to any
Who for thyself art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art belov’d of many,
But that thou none lov’st is most evident;

The speaker, in the couplet of Sonnet 9, had accused the young man: “No love toward others in that bosom sits / That on himself such murderous shame commits.” In Sonnet 10, the speaker carries on with this theme of accusation against the young man for loving no one but himself. The speaker has often teased and rebuked the young man for his selfishness; thus, now the speaker is labeling such selfishness a murderous crime. An exaggeration, for sure!

The speaker yells accusingly,“For shame!” And then the older man provokes the young man to repudiate that fact that he is regardless of others, that the latter is, in fact, a charitable individual to others, at least as much so as they are to him. The speaker refreshes the young lad's memory that the latter certainly is cognizant that many other people feel love and affection for the young lad, but that the young man does not reciprocate that affection remains obvious—“is most evident.”

Second Quatrain: Exaggeration, Reprimands, Deadly Hatred

For thou art so possess’d with murderous hate
That ’gainst thyself thou stick’st not to conspire,
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.

The speaker continues to exaggerate his claims in the second quatrain as he reprimands the young lad for holding deadly hatred in his heart. This speaker wants to impress the young man with the notion that such disaffection negatively impacts the interests of the latter. If the young man were to allow destruction of his own home and did nothing to stop it, he would be very foolish.

The speaker pours shame on such an attitude, asserting that the younger man should seek to rebuild his home from any damage. His "chief desire" should be the reconstruction of house or heart. Of course, the speaker is repeating the employment of his metaphor as he nudges the young man to guard himself from the ruination of leaving this life while leaving behind no sons and daughters.

Third Quatrain: Begins Begging

O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
Shall hate be fairer lodg’d than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:

In the third quatrain, the speaker has continued his begging of the young man to change his thinking so the speaker can also change his own notions. The speaker does not wish to continue to believe that such heinous crimes of hate are actually nursed and nurtured in the heart of this beautiful, pleasant young individual. Fashioned as a rhetorical question, the speaker queries the lad whether it is easier to hate or easier to love.

Again, the speaker is trying to convince the young man that the former's argument can be well supported. The speaker then gives the lad a command, telling him to use kindness and grace because such qualities constitute the lad's appearance.

By showing his love and affection for a woman and producing an heir, the young man will show that he can take care of himself. The speaker has already demonstrated the bitter coldness, loneliness, and isolation of dying without leaving an heir. Now, he wants the lad to, at least, be kind to himself.

The Couplet: Do It for Me!

Make thee another self, for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

In the couplet, the speaker invokes his own position in the young man’s heart as he commands the lad to produce offspring, even for the speaker's sake as well as his own. If he will not produce the offspring solely for himself, then the speaker asks him to do so for the speaker.

And then the speaker returns to the perpetuation of beauty theme; although, there are many reasons for procreating offspring, the passing on of beauty is one of the most important for a vain young man. At least, the speaker is counting on that vanity being part of the equation.

The real "Shakespeare"

Source

A Brief Overview of the 154-Sonnet Sequence

Scholars and critics of Elizabethan literature have determined that the sequence of 154 Shakespeare sonnets may be classified into three thematic categories: (1) Marriage Sonnets 1-17; (2) Muse Sonnets 18-126, traditionally identified as the "Fair Youth"; and (3) Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154.

Marriage Sonnets 1-17

The speaker in the Shakespeare “Marriage Sonnets” pursues a single goal: to persuade a young man to marry and produce beautiful offspring. It is likely that the young man is Henry Wriothesley, the third earl of Southampton, who is being urged to marry Elizabeth de Vere, the oldest daughter of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Many scholars and critics now argue persuasively that Edward de Vere is the writer of the works attributed to the nom de plume, "William Shakespeare." For example, Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets has opined:

Conceiv'd out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, with its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the "wolfish earls" so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.

For more information regarding Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the real writer of the Shakespearean canon, please visit The De Vere Society, an organization that is "dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford."

Muse Sonnets 18-126 (Traditionally classified as "Fair Youth")

The speaker in this section of sonnets is exploring his talent, his dedication to his art, and his own soul power. In some sonnets, the speaker addresses his muse, in others he addresses himself, and in others he even addresses the poem itself.

Even though many scholars and critics have traditionally categorized this group of sonnets as the "Fair Youth Sonnets," there is no "fair youth," that is "young man," in these sonnets. There is no person at all in this sequence, with exception of the two problematic sonnets, 108 and 126.

Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154

The final sequence targets an adulterous romance with a woman of questionable character; the term “dark” likely modifies the woman’s character flaws, not her skin tone.

Three Problematic Sonnets: 108, 126, 99

Sonnet 108 and 126 present a problem in categorization. While most of the sonnets in the "Muse Sonnets" do focus on the poet's musings about his writing talent and do not focus on a human being, sonnets 108 and 126 are speaking to a young man, respectively calling him "sweet boy" and "lovely boy." Sonnet 126 presents an additional problem: it is not technically a "sonnet," because it features six couplets, instead of the traditional three quatrains and a couplet.

The themes of sonnets 108 and 126 would better categorize with the "Marriage Sonnets" because they do address a "young man." It is likely that sonnets 108 and 126 are at least partially responsible for the erroneous labeling of the "Muse Sonnets" as the "Fair Youth Sonnets" along with the claim that those sonnets address a young man.

While most scholars and critics tend to categorize the sonnets into the three-themed schema, others combine the "Marriage Sonnets" and the "Fair Youth Sonnets" into one group of "Young Man Sonnets." This categorization strategy would be accurate if the "Muse Sonnets" actually addressed a young man, as only the "Marriage Sonnets" do.

Sonnet 99 might be considered somewhat problematic: it features 15 lines instead of the traditional 14 sonnet lines. It accomplishes this task by converting the opening quatrain into a cinquain, with an altered rime scheme from ABAB to ABABA. The rest of the sonnet follows the regular rime, rhythm, and function of the traditional sonnet.

The Two Final Sonnets

Sonnets 153 and 154 are also somewhat problematic. They are classified with the Dark Lady Sonnets, but they function quite differently from the bulk of those poems.

Sonnet 154 is a paraphrase of Sonnet 153; thus, they carry the same message. The two final sonnets dramatize the same theme, a complaint of unrequited love, while outfitting the complaint with the dress of mythological allusion. The speaker employs the services of the Roman god Cupid and the goddess Diana. The speaker thus achieves a distance from his feelings, which he, no doubt, hopes will finally liberate him from the clutches of his lust/love and bring him equanimity of mind and heart.

In the bulk of the "dark lady" sonnets, the speaker has a been addressing the woman directly, or making it clear that what he is saying is intended for her ears. In the final two sonnets, the speaker is not directly addressing the mistress. He does mention her, but he is speaking now about her instead of directly to her. He is now making it quite clear that he is withdrawing from the drama with her.

Readers may sense that he has grown battle-weary from his struggle for the woman’s respect and affection, and now he has finally decided to make a philosophical drama that heralds the end of that disastrous relationship, announcing essentially, "I’m through."

"Shakespeare" revealed as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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