Procreation Sonnets

by courtvanhaaren

I cannot help but be extremely amused by the blatant encouragement to procreate in these sonnets.

To begin with the first sonnet, it definitely sets the tone for the idea of carrying on oneself through children. The opening lines deliver this message clearly:

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

It’s just… Incredibly silly to believe in immortality to be created by bearing children. I mean, this might be my own youthful thinking here, but children don’t bear their parent’s personalities and after so long the genetics mix too much to trace back. How long are you immortal for through offspring? How many generations have your eyes? How many generations remember your name?

As I was writing this, the song “The Madness of King Scar” from the Lion King’s Broadway show popped into my mind. Scar comes to a revelation that he can gain immortality through fathering some cubs. I wonder if that part of the song pays homage to the Procreation sonnets? I mean, the Lion King does follow Shakespeare in both movies…

Maybe it digs into basic Darwin theories? Procreating to survive? Yes?

Moving on.

Man, does the second sonnet lay it in deep. I’m just going to post the entire thing here:

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a totter’d weed of small worth held: 
Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days; 
To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
   This were to be new made when thou art old,
   And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

You know what… I kind like that the child is taking responsibility for the parent’s fading beauty. “Yes child, you are born! Be beautiful for me!”

What a stressful expectation!

(I may jest, but I am amused by the sonnets. I do enjoy reading them so far).

Damn, Shakespeare seriously lays it on thick to this poor guy. I am not even going to talk about each sonnet independently any more, I am just going to quote some of the really hard-hitting lines in the seqence:

Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.

-Sonnet 3

For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive:
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?

-Sonnet 4

Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.

-Sonnet 6 

So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon
Unlooked on diest unless thou get a son.

-Sonnet 7

Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye,
That thou consum’st thy self in single life?

-Sonnet 9

Make thee another self for love of me,

-Sonnet 10

Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,

O! none but unthrifts. Dear my love, you know,
You had a father: let your son say so.

-Sonnet 13

I wonder, in what ways is procreating to preserve beauty as unselfish? Shakespeare states in sonnet 10 that the world would be the widow if the Fair Youth would not procreate. Is there any possibility to interpret it as denying some upcoming man or woman the chance to have a beautiful love also?

I just find it simultaneously odd and intriguing that if the Fair Youth and author were to be romantically involved why the author is so concerned with the Fair Youth procreating. I mean, I guess I could see it as the man/man relationship that couldn’t produce an offspring, so don’t be hindered but what they can’t have. I don’t know if that’s the case though, that’s only my speculation.

I also find it humorous that in Shakespeare’s writing to encourage immortalizing this man he, in turn, immortalizes him in writing. But what are words compared to a beautiful man? The words describe a touch while a man can give that touch. There is definitely a difference. At least Shakespeare addresses this in the final Procreation sonnet:

If I could write the beauty of your eyes,

But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.

I wish I really knew more about the social expectations during this time where I could even accurately make a comment about how it could possibly be commentary or a parody of what society would expect and press for from a young man.

I really wish that it was known who the Fair Youth was and how old he was when these sonnets were being addressed to him. I mean, I don’t know what ages “youth” means to Shakespeare versus my own meaning. Was the Fair Youth even old enough to care about marriage and family? Not only that, did his sexuality restrain himself from wanting that lifestyle? What of legacy? It would be his looks that would be immortalized, not his essence or his works. And, after so long, they wouldn’t become his looks anymore. The author couldn’t identify the reasoning behind the Fair Youth’s selfishness, so there is no way I would be able to know.

Putting all the speculation aside, I actually really do adore the writing. It flows extremely well and the word selection and phrasing definitely helps send a very strong message. I am actually extremely jealous that his sonnets are so pretty and I can barely figure out how to write them correctly. Not only that, all seventeen of them have different approaches to the same topic. I really enjoy the fact that there is barely any repetition in arguments for being against procreating.

All in all, an amusing introduction to Shakespeare’s sonnets. Very thought provoking, and definitely some interesting writing.

~C M VanHaaren