Shakespeare’s Sonnet 10 is a confrontation with the subject to bear children so that beauty may flourish within the narrator’s family. Additionally, the narrator acknowledges that the subject’s unwillingness to have children may stem from the subject’s sense of worth. Because of this, throughout Sonnet 10 the narrator attempts to communicate that he and many others do love the subject. Thus, Sonnet 10 is best characterized by a husband’s desire for his wife to be kind to herself and others by consenting to having children.
The first two lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 10 include the narrator urging the listener to admit they are not appropriately taking care of themselves. He even asserts that the subject is so poorly attending her own needs that she is beginning to appear to flout everyone’s concern for her well-being and thus appears cruel. However, the first line contains foreshadowing for Shakespeare’s ultimate thesis. Sonnet 10’s narrator writes “For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,” which under a superficial reading literally translates into “out of shamefulness admit you hold no love for anyone.” However, Shakespeare has chosen to use the word “bear’st” specifically to reference Sonnet 10’s ultimate point, which is the theme Shakespeare’s earlier sonnets in general, that the listener should bear children.
Though, Shakespeare does not wish to back the listener in a corner. As it may be assumed the narrator is a husband, it is clear he does love the subject and wishes to communicate his concern without harming the subject. He says “Grant if thou wilt, thou art belov’d of many,”, or that he knows the listener is loved by many people. Though, Sonnet 10 goes on to reinforce that this does not mean the listener has love for everyone else, “But that thou none lov’st is most evident;”. He goes on to say that the listener is in fact consumed by “hate” which he calls “murd’rous”. It is interesting to note that Shakespeare should use this diction. It’s possible this is another act of foreshadowing to Sonnet 10’s thesis and that Shakespeare refers to the listener ad such because he equates her unwillingness to have children to an act of murder. This becomes even more obvious when he writes that she is “Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate” or for her house to fall apart because in Shakespeare’s day, house was terminology for a family line.
Towards the end of Sonnet 10, Shakespeare appeals to the listener to change her ways. He writes
“O change thy thought, that I may change my mind.”, which is a direct request for the listener to reconsider her stance on child bearing so that Shakespeare may reconsider his feelings toward her character. When he asks “Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?” he is inquiring whether her unpleasantness should be more developed than her love, referring back to the metaphor that her house is crumbling when Shakespeare uses the word “lodged”. In attempting to change her mind, Shakespeare again flatters the subject of Sonnet 10, telling her to act as beautiful as she appears physically, “Be as thy presence is, gracious and kind,” or at least to herself; “Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove.”
The closing couplet embodies the melancholy of Sonnet 10’s narrator and finally directly addresses his motivation for speaking. He asks “Make thee another self for love of me,”, which is ambiguous with two equally valid and implied interpretations. First, the Sonnet 10 narrator is asking the listener to change herself out of love for him. Thus, the audience may assume that when the narrator formerly claimed the subject did not love anyone, he was merely stating this to illustrate how poorly she appeared to think of herself.
Secondly, he requesting that she literally make another being of herself, or to have a child. Shakespeare ends Sonnet 10 by admitting that he wishes her true beauty would live on in at least her child, if it cannot live on in both her child and herself. ” That beauty still may live in thine or thee.” Thus, Shakespeare’s narrator, and the purpose of Sonnet 10 is revealed; beauty should be preserved in any way possible, though the reality that it may diminish or fade within the original source is acknowledged.