Saturday, December 8, 2007

Shakespeare's Sonnets

Recently I purchased a small book of Shakespeare's sonnets - all of them. Most people have read a Shakespearean sonnet or two in school, or perhaps a few more if they are lovers of literature. But I'd never read all of them. Actually, I still haven't. But I was surprised at the first 10 or so. Shakespeare, in addressing the woman he loves, has a bone to pick with her. Do you know what it is? Too much make-up? Not enough kissing? More cheesecakes please? No, my friend. Shakespeare's beef with his amour is that she isn't having a baby. A baby! He is all bent out of shape that she isn't replicating herself in a multitude of little lovely babies, passing those adorable genes on to the next generation. Of course, he says it is nice ways (usually), but he is persistent, oh, is he persistent! Here's a little bit of one for your enjoyment:

Sonnet 9

Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye
That thou consumest thyself in single life?
Ah, if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep,
That thou no form of thee hast left behind....

Sonnet 10 (after he's told her how hateful she is)

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

Sonnet 11

As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou growest
In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestowest
Thou mayst call thine, when thou from youth convertest.
Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase;
Without this, folly, age, and cold decay.
If all were minded so, the times should cease,
And threescore year would make the world away.
Let those whom Nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish.
Look whom she best endowed, she gave the more;
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish.
She carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

That's just a sampling!

Here's my paraphrase of Sonnet 11:

You're getting old pretty fast, but your little girl would grow up just as fast.
You could count her young beauty as your own, as you leave your beauty behind.
This kind of replacement is the definition of wisdom, beauty, and filling the planet.
If everybody felt the way you do, human life would be extinct in 60 years!
Nature makes some women ugly, harsh, rude; those women should die childless.
Beauties like you should have the children, obviously. Beauty is a gift - pass it on!
Nature has made you a "beauty stamp." Let's start stamping!


  1. Hello. Hope you don't mind my commenting randomly, but I noticed your blog in the Covenant College Alumni site.

    I'm very interested in Shakespeare's sonnets, and so I was overjoyed to read your post. At the risk of making the sonnets even weirder for you, consider that the speaker is actually addressing a young man, as indicated in sonnet 3:

    "For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
    Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?"

    Paul Weinhold

  2. Sorry to burst your typical 21st century "feminist movement" warped bubble, but he wrote most of the sonnets to his dying son.

  3. Sorry, I just noticed you are a devoted Christian, so I'll take some time to tell you what is actually a touching tale. Shakespeare's son died at age 11. Shakespeare was in London making a living for his family and wrote the sonnets to his son during his illness and after his death and burial, which he apparently missed by a few days. Read the sonnets again now with this in mind.
    Yours in Christ, Jim

  4. Hi Jim --
    Yes, I wrote this blog post 5 years ago. There's a great documentary on Shakespeare that I watched with my students several years ago, which spells out all the events around this time. Very sad about his son. And I may be many things, but typical 21st century feminist is not one of them - haha!!!


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