Sonnet 10

Shakespeare Sonnet 10

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.

The sonnet’s opening, “For shame,” looks back to Sonnet 9.14, “murdrous shame,” and forward to the “murdrous hate” of line 5; it is either an exclamation or a reason (‘deny because of your shame’). The youth is challenged to “deny,” the first of a series of imperatives, that “thou bear’st loue to any,” either ‘carries’ his love to anyone or ‘bares’ it or ‘makes it public.’ In looking after himself alone he is accused of being “vnprouident,” of not disposing of his wealth properly and of not thinking of the future (pro + videre = to look in advance). He must concede (“Graunt”), if he is so disposed (“if thou wilt”), that he is loved by many, as was Narcissus, who in Golding’s words, “the hearts of divers trim yong men his beautie gan to move, / And many a Ladie fresh and faire was taken in his love.” Like Narcissus, who “to be toucht of man or Mayde . . wholy did disdaine,” he also refuses to be touched by or to love another. 1 He is accused of being so “possessed with murdrous hate,” a hatred that will not allow life, that he won’t hesitate (“stickst not”) to plot secretly to divide himself against himself (“gainst thy selfe . . conspire”). He is like the biblical house, which if it “be deuided agaynst it selfe, that house can not continue” (Mark 3.25; BB). The verse was used of the house of Satan and was a familiar topic of sermons: the well-known preacher John Boys in his Exposition of the Dominical Epistles and Gospels argues, “The diuell ruinates euery tenement, wherein he dwels . . [but] as for the spirituall and inward building; the foundation of Gods tenement in our soule is faith, the walles hope, the roofe charity.” 2 Here the youth is accused of wanting to ruinate his “beauteous roofe:” to bring to nought his “roofe” or body as a house perfected in love, or to stop the continuance of his ‘house,’ his lineage. He should, by contrast, seek to “repaire” or make anew that “roofe,” both his ‘body’ and his line (with a hint perhaps of ‘re-père’ = re-father).

The youth is instructed to “change thy thought,” a change similar to the biblical imperative of metanoia, to change one’s mind, often translated as “repent,” 3 so that the poet will be of a different “minde” or memory. Should the habitation of the youth’s body, he asks, perfected by love as its roof, not be a dwelling of love rather than its opposite, hate? 4 He must be as his bearing (“presence”) is, full of grace and kindness, both naturalness and generosity, or at least he should prove to himself “kind harted,” possessing a heart that generates abundance or children (“kind”). He must replicate himself (“Make thee an other selfe”) out of affection for the poet (“for loue of me”), a new motif in the sequence. Then beauty will continue to live (“still”) in either the youth’s heirs or himself (“in thine or thee”), an odd conclusion since beauty would be expected to fade in the youth.


10.1. Golding 3.339-43; see Ovid, Met. 3.353-55.

10.2. John Boys, An Exposition of the Dominical Epistles and Gospels, vsed in our English Liturgie, throughout the whole yeere (London: Felix Kyngston, 1610) 91. The metaphor was a translation of Augustine, “Domus Dei credendo fundatur, sperando erigitur, diligendo perficitur.” The locus biblicus of the body as building was 2 Cor. 5.1-2, where “our earthly house” is contrasted with “an habitation not made with hands” (BB).

10.3. The GV sidenote to the “Repent” of John 3.2 runs, “The word in the Greeke tongue, signifieth a changing of our minds.”

10.4. The line hints at a child lodging in the body: the Christ-child traditionally “lodged” in the Virgin’s womb; see John Field, An excellent treatise of Christian righteousnes, written first in the French tongue by M.I. de l’Espine, and translated into English by I. Feilde (London: Thomas Vautrollier, 1577) 67: “And euen as, when he woulde be borne of the Virgin Marie, and before he woulde be lodged in her wombe, he sent his seruauntes before him.”