Sonnet 1: From Fairest creatures we desire increase by William Shakespeare: Summary and Analysis

From Fairest creatures we desire increase is a typical Shakespearean English sonnet no. 1 out of 154 with an octet, a quatrain and a couplet. Normally, in a sonnet a problem is shown in the octet and remaining six lines give the solution. Shakespeare commences his sonnet 1 by familiarizing his most crucial themes; immortality, time, procreation and self-centeredness.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

The poet is mainly focusing on the issue of the continuation of the new generation and the immortality of the parents that the children bring with them forever and ever. He is of the opinion that the offspring will continue the beauty of the parents. All the parents have to leave the world or die sooner or later, so, their name should remain on the earth, and the best way to immortalize one’s beauty and the name is to continue the new generation.

From the fifth line to the twelfth, the poet addresses to the 'thou' who disagree with the view of the speaker in the sonnet in terms of the procreation. The speaker tells the 'thou' that he is only concentrated, which is destructive like that of the Narcissist's love of self does to him. The self-love is not only unhealthy to him, but also damaging to the entire world as the young man does not share his love and himself with the other. Metaphorically, he crates famine and drought of children where abundance is possible. The immaturity of the young man as a 'bud' will take away his immortality and beauty within himself after his death, and no one will be there to continue his generation.

The last two lines is the suggestion to the selfish young man. The speaker says the young man to have a pity on the world and take part in the procreation activity. He has been unjust to the world and he has a responsibility to the world in terms of continuation of the generation. The speaker, finally, warns him and says else he can be like a glutton who, like the grave, eats the beauty he owes to the whole world.

Shakespeare uses the imagery of the everyday life, and uses the terms used in trade and commerce like, increase, contracted, niggarding (hoarding). Here, love and begetting children have been treated as a commercial issue. Shakespeare urges the young man to take part in the activity of bearing children and tries to convince him in many ways. Rose, a typical symbol of the feminine, is used to refer to the young man in this sonnet which is an unconventional and little bit odd too.  The poet becomes more critical and condemns the young man for being barren where there could be abundance. He criticizes his narcissist type of self-love. He provides the imagery of the candle which eats itself, 'Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel' and the imagery of the glutton to warn the young man. He, moreover, uses the paradoxes of 'famine and abundance' and 'sweet self and cruel' to describe the self-centeredness of the young man. The poet says the young man is responsible for his own destruction and he could not continue his beauty and could not remain immortal if he does not reproduce. He may get empty death at the end and the world will lose a potential procreator.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "Sonnet 1: From Fairest creatures we desire increase by William Shakespeare: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 24 Apr. 2018,