Sonnet 1

Shakespeare. Sonnet 1

«From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die».

Shakespeare begins his sonnets by introducing four of his most important themes — immortality, time, procreation, and selfishness — which are interrelated in this first sonnet both thematically and through the use of images associated with business or commerce.

Sonnet 1
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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’st flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself 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, makest waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

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The sonnet’s first four lines relate all of these important themes. Individually, each of these four lines addresses a separate issue. Line 1 concerns procreation, especially in the phrase “we desire increase”; line 2 hints at immortality in the phrase “might never die”; line 3 presents the theme of time’s unceasing progress; and line 4 combines all three concerns: A “tender heir” represents immortality for parents, who will grow old and die. According to the sonnet’s poet, procreating ensures that our names will be carried on by our children. If we do not have children, however, our names will die when we do.

But, the scenario the poet creates in these four lines apparently has been rejected by the young man, whom the poet addresses as “thou,” in lines 5–12. Interested only in his own selfish desires, the youth is the embodiment of narcissism, a destructively excessive love of oneself. The poet makes clear that the youth’s self-love is unhealthy, not only for himself but for the entire world. Because the young man does not share himself with the world by having a child to carry on his beauty, he creates “a famine where abundance lies” and cruelly hurts himself. The “bud” in line 11 recalls the “rose” from line 2: The rose as an image of perfection underscores the immaturity of the young man, who is only a bud, still imperfect because he has not fully bloomed.

The final couplet — the last two lines — reinforces the injustice of the youth’s not sharing his beauty with the world. The “famine” that he creates for himself is furthered in the phrase “To eat the world’s due,” as though the youth has the responsibility and the world has the right to expect the young man to father a child. Throughout the sonnets, Shakespeare draws his imagery from everyday life in the world around him...

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