William Shakespeare – Sonnet 10
For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,
Who for thy self art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lov’st is most evident:
For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,
That ‘gainst thy self 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 lodged 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.
This is the first sonnet of the series in which the poet declares a personal interest in the youth, rather than the general one of desiring for the world’s sake that it be not deprived of his progeny. Here there are two statements, firstly, that he wishes to have an opportunity to change his opinion of the youth (l.9), as implying that his (the poet’s) better opinion is of some value; secondly he attempts the persuasive argument of ‘for love of me’ in orderto produce a change in the youth’s intentions. Neither of these amount to a declaration of love, although they do half imply it, for what is love if it is not reciprocated? In any case it is in some sense preparatory to the more impassioned statements of several of the sonnets which are to follow.
Apart from that, the argument of this sonnet is similar to that of the previous one: ‘Be not wilfully selfish and cruel to mankind, but replace and repair your decaying mansion by procreation. In that way you live on, and I myself and others will think the better of you.’
The 1609 Quarto Version
FOr ſhame deny that thou bear’ſt loue to any
Who for thy ſelfe art ſo vnprouident
Graunt if thou wilt,thou art belou’d of many,
But that thou none lou’ſt is moſt euident:
For thou art ſo poſſeſt with murdrous hate,
That gainſt thy ſelfe thou ſtickſt not to conſpire,
Seeking that beautious roofe to ruinate
Which to repaire ſhould be thy chiefe deſire :
O change thy thought,that I may change my minde,
Shall hate be fairer log’d then gentle loue?
Be as thy preſence is gracious and kind,
Or to thy ſelfe at leaſt kind harted proue,
Make thee an other ſelfe for loue of me,
That beauty ſtill may liue in thine or thee.
1. For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,For shame may have an exclamatory sense (shame on you!) and is printed with an exclamation mark in some editions. Otherwise the meaning is ‘Prompted by feelings of shame you ought to admit that etc.’ The word is also an echo from the last line of the previous sonnet. That on himself such murderous shame commits and the two sonnets are clearly linked by this line and line 5.2. Who for thy self art so unprovident.unprovident = failing to provide for the future, improvident. From the Latin providere ‘to look ahead’. The modern usage is ‘improvident’.3. Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,It may be an argument in your favour that you are loved by so many. Let us admit (if you desire to use that argument) that you are loved by many.4. But that thou none lov’st is most evident:But it is evident that you yourself do not love anyone. (Therefore there is something seriously amiss). The line is further explained in the next quatrain.5. For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,murderous hate refers back to the murderous shame of the previous sonnet, with its concomitant double meanings. He is seeking to murder his posterity by not having children.6. That ‘gainst thy self thou stick’st not to conspire,‘gainst = against;
thoustick’st not = you do not hesitate, you find no objection to (sticking point).7. Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinateBeing determined to destroy that lovely house. roof is symbolic of house, family, lineage, especially an aristocratic one.
ruinate = bring to ruin, destroy.8. Which to repair should be thy chief desire.Which refers to the roof of the previous line. To repair which etc. Continuous repair is necessary to keep a building in sound order. To maintain his house (family) should be the youth’s chief wish. The imagery recurs in Sonn.13:
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold etc.9. O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:Change your intention, your purpose, so that I may change my opinion (of your conduct). See introductory note.10. Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?Will you, who are the most fair of all creatures, be the house in which hate is lodged (whereas others, who are uglier, are yet capable of demonstrating love). lodged implies the residence of an idea in the mind, as in the previous sonnet, where sits is equivalent to is lodged.
No love toward others in that bosom sits
That on himself such murderous shame commits. 9.
The hatred referred to is that of refusing to procreate, hating posterity. See above, note to l.5.11. Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,Be as your behaviour indicates you to be, generous, noble, graceful. presence is indicative of stature, mien, bearing, presence of mind in company, and so on.12. Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:prove = turn out to be, become, i.e., by agreeing to produce children, thus taking pity on your ‘house’.13. Make thee another self for love of me,Produce an heir, if not for the reasons stated already, at least do so for love of me.14. That beauty still may live in thine or thee.
That = so that;
still = always, continually;
thine = thy children. His beauty will be carried on in his children. beauty here refers to the youth’s beauty, both in the individual sense that he as a beautiful youth must preserve himself, but also in that his beauty is the standard for the times, the essential essence of what it is to be beauteous.