Shakespeare’s Sonnets

by: William Shakespeare

The Beautiful Young Man

So thou, thyself out-going in thy noon, Unlooked on diest unless thou get a son. (Sonnet 7)

In these lines from Sonnet 7, the speaker addresses the beautiful young man, explaining that he wastes his gifts by not fathering a son. Although readers do not hear from the young man directly, the speaker focuses on a reluctance to get married or have children. The speaker exhorts the young man to view passing on his beauty as a moral obligation.

Him in thy course untainted do allow For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men. (Sonnet 19)

In Sonnet 19, the speaker personifies time as a ravenous beast whom he forbids to age his beloved. He commands time to let the young man remain a model of what youth and beauty should be. The speaker wants to believe that the young man’s beauty can allow him to live forever, a thought indicating the powerful effect the young man’s appearance has on those around him.

Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth. Suns of the world may stain when heav’n’s sun staineth. (Sonnet 33)

At the end of Sonnet 33, Shakespeare compares the beautiful young man to the sun, whose splendor he admires but which sometimes becomes hidden by the clouds. In the sonnet, the speaker uses the image of clouds as a symbol for betrayal, implying that the young man may not be faithful. But, because of his attraction to the man, the speaker forgives him. Readers may infer that the young man uses his beauty to his own advantage.

Thou dost love her because thou knowst I love her[.] (Sonnet 42)

With these words from Sonnet 42, the speaker accuses the beautiful young man of only loving a woman because he knows the speaker loves her too. Even though the men have a close relationship, the young man clearly has a vengeful or jealous side and behaves in ways that hurt his friend, the speaker. However, because the speaker admires the young man’s beauty so much, he lets the young man get away with such selfish and thoughtless behavior.

But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are, Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief, Thou best of dearest, and mine only care, Art left the prey of every vulgar thief. (Sonnet 48)

In Sonnet 48, the speaker compares the beautiful young man to his precious jewels, which he locks away so that they will not get stolen. However, he laments he cannot lock away the young man, whose inherent attractiveness makes him much more likely to be stolen away from him. Such a thought reveals the young man’s fickleness: He may offer his friendship to those who simply appreciate his beauty.