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Shakespeare Sonnet 10:   "For shame! deny that thou bear’st love to any"

The Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence remains essential in my poetry tool kit. Masterfully crafted, they dramatize love, beauty, and truth.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 10: "For shame! deny that thou bear’st love to any"

In sonnet 10 from the thematic group, “The Marriage Sonnets,” in the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, 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. The insistent speaker 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"

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

The speaker is now challenging the young man’s sense of self, vis-à-vis his love and affection for others. The speaker then exaggerates the possible lack as “murderous hate.” The speaker’s employment of exaggeration often adds to the drama of his pleadings.

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: you must hold a deadly contempt for you fellow man to remain so utterly selfish. In this sonnet10, 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.

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.

Shakespeare Identified Lecture, Mike A'Dair And William J. Ray

© 2020 Linda Sue Grimes