Shakespeare’s Sonnets

by: William Shakespeare

Responsibility

1

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

In Sonnet 1, the speaker pleads with a handsome young man to have children. He defends his plea by explaining that everyone wants beautiful people to have children so that the parents’ beauty will stay in the world forever. The speaker believes that a person blessed with physical gifts bears a responsibility to give his or her gifts to the world. So, readers may infer that, based on the speaker’s argument, beautiful people owe more to society and the world than others.

2

How much more praise deserved 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.

In Sonnet 2, the speaker tells the attractive young man that he will not retain his beauty in his older years. When people wonder how he got so old, he can answer that he spent his youth investing in a family, passing on his physical features, cognitive strengths, and moral wisdom to the next generation. The speaker believes men distinguish themselves by such investments beyond simply growing old. This advice reveals the speaker’s assumption that beautiful people have a duty to procreate.