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Sonnet 1

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory.
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding.
    Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

–William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare 1st sonnet is urging the young man he is writing to not to waste his beauty by not fathering a child. The intended recipient of this and other sonnets is a subject of scholarly debate, with many believing it to be Henry Wriothesley. See: Identity of "Mr. W.H."

SynopsisEdit

This sonnet starts with the line "From fairest creatures we desire increase" meaning that creatures multiply in order to preserve their beauty. Shakespeare is commenting that creatures age "as the riper should by time decease" therefore by procreating the next generation will preserve a creature's beauty "His tender heir might bear his memory".

The person in this sonnet is described as being too self-absorbed to procreate. Therefore although he is beautiful now, this beauty will eventually fade "the world's fresh ornament / And only herald to the gaudy spring"

Sonnet 1 introduces the themes of the first group of sonnets; it explores themes of Beauty, Passage of human life, and wasteful self-consumption.

Sonnet 1 starts a group of the first seventeen sonnets, often referred to as the procreation sonnets because they are about producing offspring.

The structure of Sonnet 1 is simple. The first quatrain describes that Beauty should propagate. The second quatrain argues that the male in the poem has failed to do this. The third quatrain argues that he should do this otherwise his beauty will whither away, with the final couplet portending doom should he fail.

The image of the young man contracted to his own bright eyes, feeding his "light's flame" is an image of self-absorption.

ReferencesEdit

  • Alden, Raymond. The Sonnets of Shakespeare, with Variorum Reading and Commentary. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1916.
  • Baldwin, T. W. On the Literary Genetics of Shakspeare's Sonnets. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1950.
  • Booth, Stephen. Shakespeare's Sonnets. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
  • Dowden, Edward. Shakespeare's Sonnets. London, 1881.
  • Hubler, Edwin. The Sense of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1952.


NotesEdit

External linksEdit

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