‘For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any’ is number ten in a series of one hundred and fifty-four sonnets that Shakespeare penned. It belongs as do the vast majority of the sonnets, to the Fair Youth sequence. This series of poems was dedicated to a specific person, whose identity has never been confirmed. The Fair Youth was a beautiful young man, someone the speaker, and perhaps Shakespeare himself cared about deeply. This sonnet is one of seventeen that is part of the group focused on procreation. The poem focuses on themes of love, immortality, and beauty.
The poem is one of the harsher, more direct in the series. In it, the speaker once again accuses the youth of being a murderer for not wanting to have a child. He tells the young man that everyone loves him and that he should have a child, if not for their sake or his, then for the speaker’s. It would allow his beauty to be persevered in another after he dies.
Read more poetry from William Shakespeare here.
‘For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any’ by William Shakespeare is a fourteen-line sonnet that is structured in the form that has come to be synonymous with his name. The Shakespearean sonnet is made up of three quatrains, or sets of four lines, and one concluding couplet, or set of two rhyming lines. This poem, as all those which conform to the pattern popularized by Shakespeare, follows a consistent rhyme scheme that conforms to the pattern of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG and it is written in iambic pentameter. This means that each line contains five sets of two beats, known as metrical feet. The first is unstressed and the second stressed. It sounds something like da-DUM, da-DUM.
The last two lines of ‘For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any’ are a rhyming pair, known as a couplet. They often bring with them a turn or volta in the poem. They’re sometimes used to answer a question posed in the previous twelve lines, shift the perspective, or even change speakers. The turn in this poem and the few that came before it all leave the speaker’s most important request of the Fair Youth until the end. The first three quatrains address the damage the youth is doing to himself and the world and the turn introduces the solution, having a child.
Shakespeare makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any’.These include, but are not limited to, alliteration and allusion. The latter, allusion, is an expression that’s meant to call something specific to mind without directly stating it. This poem is one in a series of seventeen that focus on the same themes all directed at the Fair Youth.
As the poems progress through this small collection, there are more and more allusions to themes and images that were prevalent in other sonnets. In the case of this particular sonnet, there are allusions to the previous, sonnet number nine, where the speaker called the Fair Youth a murderer for not preserving his beauty in the form of a child.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, “ruinate” and “repair” in lines seven and eight or “gentle” and “gracious” in lines ten and eleven.
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:
The first quatrain of ‘For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any,’ sonnet ten, picks up almost exactly where sonnet nine left off. The speaker is still addressing the Fair Youth, a young and beautiful man who refuses to get married or have children. Shakespeare’s speaker is still baffled and angered by this choice. He shows it by calling the youth a murderer and telling him that he has no love in his heart for other people. If he did, he’d leave behind a child to comfort them when his beauty has left the world.
The speaker asks the youth in the first lines to admit that he doesn’t care for anyone, including himself. If he has any shame he’d admit to it. He does want to make sure that the youth understands how much everyone else cares for him though. He is “beloved of many” but he loves “none”. A fact of his life that is very clear to the speaker.
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.
In the second quatrain, the speaker tells the youth that he must be “possessed with murderous hate” because he continues to plot against himself. By going day after day and year after year without having a child he is killing his own beauty. He’s letting it go to waste. This is an example of allusion. It relates back to the previous sonnets in this series all of which touch on the same themes and the same issue the speaker has with the Fair Youth. The youth does not seem to understand that eventually he’s going to be old and die and nothing will be left behind to make his existence.
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:
The third and final quatrain of ‘For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any’ asks the youth to change his way of thinking so that he can change his mind about him. If he’d just take the speaker’s words and do as he wants, then the speaker would no longer think of the youth as a murderer. It’s clear the speaker does not want to hate this young man (and he doesn’t) but he hopes this line of reason will have some influence on him.
He asks the youth to act in accordance with his appearance, gracious and kind. If he can’t be kind to everyone else he should at least be kind to himself.
Make thee another self for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.
In the last two lines, a rhyming pair known as a couplet, the speaker gets to the heart of his argument. He tells the Fair Youth that he needs to have a child or “Make thee another self” for the speaker’s sake. Then, the beauty that the Fair Youth has at this moment will “live in” the child if not in “thee”.