Shakespeare’s Sonnet #1, Read by David Hurley


From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thy self thy foe, to thy own sweet self too cruel:
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And tender churl mak’st waste in niggarding:
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of weekly recordings of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, eventually covering all 154 of them (in about three years’ time if I keep to schedule).

To make these podcasts I’m using the Edirol R-09 by Roland for voice recordings and then importing them into Garageband on my Mac and doing the rest there.

This is only my third recording so I’m still learning the ropes as it were. The echo effect on this recording was an accidental result of my “fiddling with the controls” – but I quite like the haunting quality of the echo and might just keep it for the rest of the sonnets. I’d welcome your feedback, though, so feel free to post your comments below this post.

As for the reading itself, I found myself wondering whether the word “content” should be read with the stress on the first syllable,

Within thine own bud buriest thy còntent,

meaning that the young man is burying himself within himself. However, if you attempt to read it that way you will find that the line refuses to scan and that you are forced to stress the second syllable, contènt. That, in turn, forces you to realize that the poet’s complaint is not so much that the young man, in his solipsistic self regard, has achieved a state of inner contentment, but that he is burying that which can make him happy within himself.

That reading is confirmed by Alexander Schmidt’s Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary:

Content, subst. 3) that which is the condition of happiness or satisfaction, a) that which to attain would make one happy; desire, wish, will: within thine own bud buriest thy c. Sonn. I, 11.

In The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets Helen Vendler, discussing the profusion of images of profusion within the sonnet, writes:

Since its aesthetic display is intended to invoke profusion, the poem enacts its own reproach to the niggardliness it describes;

if you would be content, go forth and multiply, it seems to say, and sets the example by providing us with an ample store of key words that will “multiply” across the rest of the sonnets. Listen out for them in the next few recordings of the sonnets.


The Sonnets (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (Belknap)