The Poetry and the Drama
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  • William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy details the logical
    structure of the philosophy in Shakespeare's 1609 Sonnets.

    Volume 1: Part 2; The increase argument (37 book pages)

    The Institute for the Quaternary Evolution in Shakespearean Thought
    The Quaternary Institute
    Quaternary Institute & Quaternary Imprint



    The first edition of the 4 volume set William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy [2005] is still available.


    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005

           William Shakespeare's Sonnet Philosophy (2005), is a four Volume slipcase set that presents the philosophy embedded by Shakespeare in his Sonnets of 1609.
           The four Volume set has been reissued in hardback and paperback editions (2018 to 2020) that are available individually through online publishing (see Quaternary Imprint).
           In addition, all 1760 pages of the four Volumes are now ready for viewing on the Quaternary Institute Website.

           VOLUME 1: The 560 pages of the first Volume explain Shakespeare's nature-based philosophy in detail, with Appendices and a Glossary that provide further analysis.
           VOLUME 2: The 372 pages of the second Volume provide commentaries on the 154 individual sonnets, and critiques the history of egregious emendations.
           VOLUME 3:The 488 pages of the third Volume selections provide commentaries on Shakespeare's four longer poems and five of the plays from the 1623 Folio.
           VOLUME 4: The 284 pages of the fourth Volume consider proto-quaternary thinkers and artists whose combined insights led to an understanding of Shakespeare's Sonnet philosophy, and then critiques ten thinkers who tried but failed to appreciate the nature-based Sonnet philosophy behind all thirty-six plays in the 1623 Folio.

    The increase argument

    The logical relationship established by Shakespeare in Q, between nature, the Mistress, and the Master Mistress (as presented in Part 1), provides the foundation for an appreciation of the Sonnets as they are laid out in Q. Once the logical foundation is acknowledged it is possible to begin at the first sonnet and consistently present the content of the Sonnets through to 154.
            Part 2 considers the dynamic immediately consequent upon the logical foundation of the whole set. The differentiation of the Mistress and the Master Mistress in nature leads logically to their reunification, or the possibility of perpetuation through increase. The first 14 sonnets of the set establish the logical conditions for the possibility of increase. Together they present the increase argument.

    2.1     Internal structure of the Master Mistress sonnets

    The 126 sonnets of the Master Mistress sequence are divided into two logically distinct groups. The first 14 sonnets argue for the priority of increase in the logic of human existence, while sonnets 15 to 126 consider the implication of the increase argument for the possibility of understanding, or truth and beauty.
            The first 14 sonnets are devoted to the process of increase or the logical consequence of sexual differentiation if humankind is to persist. The first line of the first sonnet introduces the word increase, and each succeeding sonnet presents an aspect of the argument. The last of the increase sonnets, sonnet 14, gives the definitive statement of the logical relation between increase and truth and beauty, the theme of the remaining sonnets.
            So once the logical status of increase is established in sonnet 14, the truth and beauty dynamic is explored. Sonnets 15 to 126 consider the dynamic of truth and beauty as a logical derivation from the increase dynamic. At the beginning of the truth and beauty sequence there are 5 transitional sonnets, sonnets 15 to 19. They account for the logical transition from the sexual or physical processes of increase to the conceptual processes of truth and beauty. The 5 sonnets consider the relation between increase and the possibility of ‘poetry’. They recognise the logical consequences for the Poet of presenting his philosophy through the medium of poetry or language. Once this necessary precondition is addressed, the truth and beauty dynamic proper in relation to the youth is presented in sonnets 20 to 126.
            So Part 2 considers the first 14 sonnets dedicated to the theme of increase. The remaining 112 Master Mistress sonnets dedicated to the theme of truth and beauty are considered in Part 3, along with the definitive presentation of beauty and truth in the 28 Mistress sonnets.

    2.2     The increase argument

    The increase sonnets explore one theme with a persistence unmatched by any other grouping in the set. Though they have euphemistically been called the ‘marriage sonnets’, such traditional prejudice has not diverted some commentators from recognising that they address the issue of procreation in general and not the institution or the possibility of marriage. Sonnet 3, for instance, uses ‘husbandry’ in the agricultural sense to emphasise the grassroots nature of the Poet’s philosophic point.

    For where is she so fair whose un-eared womb
    Distains the tillage of thy husbandry?
                                        (Sonnet 3.5-6)

            Sonnets 8 and 9, in the only other allusions to the married state, use the example of an already fruitful marriage to impress upon the youth the value of siring a child. In sonnet 8 the strings of a musical instrument produce a concord resembling the three way relationship of family life.

    If the true concord of well tuned sounds,
    By unions married do offend thine ear,
    They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
    In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear:
    Mark how one string sweet husband to an other,
    Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
    Resembling sire, and child, and happy mother,
    Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
                                        (Sonnet 8.4-12)

            Similarly, sonnet 9 argues from the vantage of a marriage with children, but this time in terms of a widow whose children resemble her husband.

    Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye,
    That thou consum’st thy self in single life?
    Ah; if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
    The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
    The world will be thy widow and still weep,
    That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
    When every private widow well may keep,
    By children’s eyes, her husband’s shape in mind:
                                        (Sonnet 9.1-8)

            The youth is not so much encouraged into the state of marriage as presented with two instances of marriage to illustrate the potential for him to renew himself. The state of marriage itself does not guarantee increase. The philosophic point about increase cannot be made conditional upon the exigencies of marriage.
            The status of marriage as a convention is a constant theme throughout the plays. In the sub-plot of King Lear, Gloucester’s unwillingness to accept Edmund, his bastard offspring, as a rightful son leads directly to his blinding in symbolic retribution for his blindness to the natural logic of increase.
            Consistent with the use of the word ‘increase’ in the first line of the first sonnet, the group will be referred to as the increase sonnets. As a group they present the increase argument. The word ‘increase’, as used in the youth sequence, is an exact characterisation of the Poet’s intent. The issue is not so much that of procreation in terms of sexual preference but rather a matter of the status of every human being and the logical requirement to increase if the human species is to persist.

    2.3     The 14 increase sonnets

    The coherence of the increase sonnets as a group has long been recognised, but the traditional claim that sonnet 17 is the last of the ‘marriage’ sonnets is a double prejudice. The claim is influenced by the romantically inspired belief that sonnet 18 is the first sonnet in which Shakespeare attained maturity as a writer. But sonnet 17 belongs to the transitional group of 5 sonnets (15 to 19) that explore the relation of increase and poetry or the ability to write sonnets about truth and beauty. The poetic intensity of sonnet 18 is a consequence of its role as one of the 5 sonnets. Its relationship to the other poetry and increase sonnets is considered in Part 3.6.
            Some commentators have suggested that sonnets 6 and 16 (under the traditional reckoning that there are 17 ‘marriage’ sonnets) don’t mention the increase argument. This claim ignores the fact that sonnets 5 and 6 and 15 and 16 logically entail with a ‘then’ and a ‘but’, and so in each case the two sonnets are connected to present a single argument.
            Ironically, because the increase sonnets stand together as a group at the beginning of the set and because of their rather literal argumentation, they have been dismissed by commentators as juvenilia, or ‘the persuasion of hired labour’ (Ted Hughes). Because the commentators do not understand the logic of truth and beauty they find it impossible to reconcile the reiteration of a singular theme to the shifting pattern of ideas in the remaining sonnets.
            Only the 9 Alien Poet sonnets, half way through the set (78 to 86), provide a comparable group of connected sonnets. Their theme, though, addresses the inability of the youth to appreciate the significance of the increase argument for mythic expression. The 9 sonnets relate numerologically to the number 9 (126 = 1+2+6 = 9) associated with the immaturity of the youth.
            In this presentation, contrary to traditional expectations, sonnet 14 is identified logically as the last of the sonnets in which increase is the sole theme.

    2.4     The inherent order in sonnets from 20 to 154

    Because the increase sonnets are at the beginning of the set and are obviously ordered to present one idea, it has long been thought, other than for the break at 126, that the remaining sonnets have no intended order or consistency of theme. It is not appreciated that the overall structure of the 154 sonnets, with its two internal sequences and the deliberate argument of the increase group, establishes the logical preconditions for the meaningful presentation of truth and beauty in sonnets 20 to 154.
            By organising the 154 sonnets with its two sequences in the form of a template for the primary structure based in nature, and deriving a template for the increase sonnets from the primary structure, and then showing how the truth and beauty dynamic derives from both, Shakespeare establishes the logical basis for understanding. The truth and beauty sonnets, by respecting those logical conditions as a given, cannot but make sense regardless of their order. They are inherently ordered.
            Attempts to reorder the Sonnets must fail because the order in Q is inherent in the consistent attitude the Poet has toward his material. He establishes the sense of the Sonnets by respecting natural logic and its implications for human understanding. The increase sonnets are a coherent group because they are part of the process of orientating the content of the set of sonnets to enable them to have an indisputable internal logic.
            In simple terms, the primary structure characterises the world about, the increase sonnets demonstrate the logical relation of the body to that structure, and the truth and beauty sonnets demonstrate the logical relation of the human mind to both those possibilities. The coherence of the increase sonnets is part of the logical structure that allows an effective presentation of the dynamic of truth and beauty in Q. When it is realised that the Sonnets delineate the philosophy Shakespeare applies consistently in all of his plays, then the naturalness of their inherent ‘order’ is a counterpart to the ease with which the plays employ the full range of human understanding.
            There is a parallel between Shakespeare’s achievement and the difficulties faced by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein throughout his career. Wittgenstein’s inability to give coherent structure to his early or later periods of philosophy is resolved in the structure Shakespeare gives his Sonnets with its primary template and the increase sonnets. A critique of Wittgenstein and his focus on the logic of language is provided in Volume 4.

    2.5     The order of presentation in Q

    In the presentation of the Nature female/male template in Part 1, the Mistress sonnets were considered before the youth sonnets. The process is now reversed, with the argument in the Sonnets beginning with the first sonnet and proceeding through the Master Mistress sonnets into the Mistress sonnets. The Poet aligns his means of expression, the Sonnets, with the process of determining the youth’s relation to the Mistress. The logical conditions for writing sonnets at the mythic level are allied to the difficulties encountered by the youth in his journey toward the logical realisation of the relation of truth and beauty to the increase potential and nature.
            The argument within the youth sequence establishes the logical conditions for his existence as a male. The purpose of the argument is to encourage him to appreciate the unity represented by the logical relation of the female and male. For the writing of philosophic poetry it then becomes possible to reconcile the feminine and masculine aspects of the mind. In essence, both the Increase and the Truth and Beauty templates demonstrate the consequences of the division into sexually distinct beings and the means by which those beings effect reconciliation with nature through the agency of the dynamic between the body and the mind.
            The primary template, then, gives the basic form for the derivation of the female and male elements from nature. The increase argument demonstrates the need for the reunification of the male and female components. The template derived from that appreciation then becomes the model for the template that determines the relationship between truth and beauty.
            The position of the 14 increase sonnets at the beginning of the youth sequence, and so at the beginning of the whole set of 154, is not accidental. They argue for the priority of increase (or the sexual) over the understanding as truth and beauty (or the erotic). They occur in the sequence to the youth rather than the sequence to the Mistress because it is the youth, or the male element, that needs to be restored to the female because, biologically, the female generates the male.

    2.6     Increase and truth and beauty in the first 14 sonnets

    The logical connection between increase and truth and beauty is made explicit in the first and fourteenth sonnets. The word ‘increase’ is introduced in the first line of the first sonnet.

    From fairest creatures we desire increase,
                                        (Sonnet 1.1)

            The group of 14 concludes with the words ‘Truth and Beauty’ appearing in the last line of sonnet 14.

        Thy end is Truth’s and Beauty’s doom and date.
                                        (Sonnet 14.14)

            This is in preparation for the critique of the youth’s understanding of truth and beauty in the remaining 140 sonnets.
            Sonnet 14 explicitly expresses the relation between increase and truth and beauty.

    But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
    And constant stars in them I read such art
    As truth and beauty shall together thrive
    If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert:
        Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
        Thy end is Truth’s and Beauty’s doom and date.

                                        (Sonnet 14.9-14)

            The word ‘store’ in line 12 is used in the increase argument as a property of increase. The effect is to store the youth’s potential through increase, or the sexual process, to succeeding generations for the continued appreciation of truth and beauty. The word is used in this sense in sonnet 11.

    Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase,
    Without this folly, age, and cold decay,
    If all were minded so, the times should cease,
    And threescore year would make the world away:
    Let those whom nature hath not made for store,
    Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish,

    Look whom she best endowed, she gave the more;
    Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish,
                                        (Sonnet 11.5-12)

            The Poet’s argument is uncompromising because it is intended to counter the conceit of immortality through poetry, which can take a firm hold on the idealising tendency in the imagination.
            If Shakespeare argues against the negative consequences of the idealising imagination, it is ironical that for the last 400 years the misconceptions he noted have persisted in the interpretation of his works. The traditional understanding that sonnet 17 is the last of the increase sonnets, because sonnet 18 is considered the first truly ‘poetic’ sonnet, has meant that sonnet 14 has not been considered for its logical statement of the relation of increase to truth and beauty. Such a misreading of sonnet 18 is based on psychological expectations closer to those of the Romantics or Idealists rather than the complete philosophic and poetic expression encountered in the Sonnets.

    2.7     The significance of the number 14

    Shakespeare’s decision to have exactly 14 increase sonnets was deliberate. He based his decision on the 14 lines in a regular sonnet and the divisibility by 14 of the principal components of the complete set. The number 14 establishes a constant rhythm throughout the set. (Other than the two sonnets of variant form, 99 and 126, all the sonnets have 14 lines.)
            The standard line length of the Shakespearean sonnet of 10 syllables or pentameters contributes to the regular rhythm. The division at sonnet 14 (14x1) means there are 140 (14x10) sonnets devoted to truth and beauty.
            The 154 (14x11) sonnets to nature, the 126 (14x9) sonnets to the youth and the 28 (14x2) sonnets to the Mistress are each divisible by 14. Hence, the number 14 acts as a logical unit within the whole set. The total number of sonnets is divisible by 14 to produce 11.

    154 = 14x11

            The number 11 is the alternate number for Nature, the sovereign mistress. Nature is identified by its signature number 11 (14x11), which incorporates the unity of its total numbering (154 = 1) and its antithetical role represented by 11 or 2 (11 = 1+1 =2). Both 126 and 28 are divisible by 14 to produce the numbers 9 and 2.

    126 = 14x9

    28 = 14x2

            The number 9 is associated with the Master Mistress and the number 2 is the alternate number for the Mistress. The 14 increase sonnets (14x1), with their emphasis on the logical condition for bodily persistence, add their 1 to the 10 of the sonnets dealing with truth and beauty (14x10) to produce the correct multiplicity for nature (14x11). The numbers for nature (14x11 and 154=1) are the same as those for the Mistress sequence (14x2 and 28=1) because the Mistress is a direct derivative of nature.

    1+10 = 11 = 1+1 = 2

            The relation of 14s can be represented diagrammatically to show the configurations of 14 out of sonnet 14 (Diag 24).

    Pattern if 14s

    DIAG 22: Pattern of 14s in the (Sonnets)

            The meaning of the Sonnets is (appropriately in terms of increase) multiplied out of sonnet 14 in the form of a geometric progression rather than as an additive or arithmetic progression. The progression is determined by multiplying 14 with numbers of logical significance such as 1, 9 10 and 11. As with the subsidiary structures related to music (8, 128) and time (12, 60) only the sonnets at key points such as 14, 126, 154, are pivotal. Other sonnets that are additives of 14 such as 28, 42, 56, etc., have no special significance. Only sonnet 98 (14x7) has a subsidiary role in the formation of the image derived from the whole set (see 5.7).
            Sonnet 14, then, is the pivotal sonnet in the whole set. The number 14 is a structural factor in the logical organisation of the whole set of 154 and the two sequences of 126 and 28, and the proportion of increase sonnets to the rest is 14 to 140, or 1 in 10. The 14 lines in a regular sonnet and the 14 increase sonnets, with sonnet 14 presenting the pivotal argument for the whole set, contribute to the sense that Shake-speares Sonnets is constructed with bricklike units, with the individual sonnets providing the basic unit of 14 lines by 10 syllables. There are many features then in the sequence as a whole that acknowledge the fundamental role of sonnet 14, and so the number 14, in the structural organisation.
            Further numberings based on 14 relating to the number of lines in A Lover’s Complaint are given later (see 5.8). It can be noted, as an aside, that the age of a few of the young heroines in the plays is 14 or coming on to 14. All the plays are based on the philosophy of the Sonnets and some like Love’s Labour’s Lost, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and particularly King Lear and The Tempest make overt reference to the idea of increase.

    2.8     The symbolism of 14

    In keeping with the relation between nature and the possibility of human beings established in the primary template, the numerological sum of 14 stands for humankind in traditional symbol systems.

    14 = 1+4 = 5

            The use of the number 14 to multiply the logical structure of the set out of the increase sonnets is consistent with human potential within nature presiding at the centre of Shakespeare’s philosophy. The symbolism of the number 5 points to human existence as the logical heart of Shake-speares Sonnets. Sonnet 14 is explicit in dismissing ‘the heavenly stars’ as a basis for understanding. It locates the possibility of knowledge in the eye to eye relation of human beings. The 5 sonnets to poetry and increase (15 to19) argue that understanding and expression have truth and beauty only if they use human potentiality as their logical basis.
            Shakespeare uses the logical perspective from the human vantage to understand and appreciate the nature of the world and the nature of the mind. He refuses to employ macro-models based on super-human potentialities such as the God of Christianity. Likewise he refuses to use micromodels based on atom and molecules, as did the Greeks and as is common in twentieth century philosophy. These approaches fail to take the human body as the norm for a consistent logic.
            The structuring out of the number 14, both in terms of the number of lines in a standard sonnet and the exact division of the 154 sonnets and the sequences of 126 and 28, provides the appropriate logical multiplicity within which the presentation of the dynamic of truth and beauty can emulate the freedom the mind enjoys within life. By generating multiplicity from within the human potential, Shakespeare creates a sense of order within disorder so characteristic of his work. The inability of 400 years of Sonnet interpretation to appreciate this state of affairs reflects on the inadequacy of the systems of thought and belief to which the Sonnets have been subjected.
            The intensive focus on one theme, that characterises the increase sonnets, sets them apart at the beginning of the youth sequence. The increase sonnets have a profound influence on the possibility of meaning for the set as a whole. They are part of the structure of the Sonnets through which the mythic meaning in the rest is derived. The numerological arrangement bears this out.

    2.9     The argument of the individual increase sonnets

    It is not the intention at this time to examine the increase sonnets individually. They will be considered in detail in the full set of commentaries presented in Volume 2. Each of the 14 sonnets, though, reiterates the same idea. The Poet uses a number of arguments, each with its particular imagery, to establish in the youth’s mind the logical function of increase for humankind. He appeals to the youth’s sense of pity, his sense of beauty, his sense of mortality, among other conceits, to make his point. Significant issues are addressed in some of the sonnets, though, that warrant attention.
            Sonnet 4, for instance, warns the youth of the impending ‘audit’ by nature when she will, through the agency of time, end his life whether or not he has increased.

    Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
    What acceptable Audit can’st thou leave?
        Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
        Which used lives th’executor to be.
                                        (Sonnet 4.11-14)

            This, as has been seen, is a precursor to the final audit by Nature in sonnet 126.

    2.10     Sonnet 11

    The logical crux of the set is presented in sonnet 11, (which appropriately has the number 11 of nature). It argues that if all living human beings were inclined, like the youth, not to increase then within the space of 60 years the whole of humankind would be extinct.

    As fast as thou shalt wane so fast thou grow’st,
    In one of thine, from that which thou departest,
    And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow’st,
    Thou mayst call thine, when thou from youth convertest,
    Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase,
    Without this folly, age, and cold decay,
    If all were minded so, the times should cease,
    And threescore year would make the world away:

    Let those whom nature hath not made for store,
    Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish,
    Look whom she best endowed, she gave the more;
    Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish,
        She carved thee for her seal, and meant thereby,
        Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.
                                        (Sonnet 11)

            The logic of increase is a universal consideration for all human beings whatever their sexual dispositions. However, it is not a universal condition for all human beings that they need to procreate. Not all human beings live to an age to be able to procreate, not all human beings are fertile and so able to procreate, and for a variety of other reasons from religious temperament to sexual disposition, it would be inconsistent with the facts to suggest there is a universal law that all should procreate.
            What is common to all human beings, though, is their birth. If, like the youth they are willing and able to increase, then the physical fact of increase is of consequence to them. It is through those who are ‘minded so’, then, that humankind increases or decreases in number.
            Shakespeare uses the word increase with great purpose and precision. Increase stands for the logic of human persistence from generation to generation. The physiology and psychology of sex is not the focus of his concern. Nor is he focusing his intent on individual fertility, longevity, genealogy, or sexual disposition.
            The argument throughout is philosophic. It is a logical argument, which states that if the youth withholds himself from heterosexual experiences (as in celibacy), then he should be aware of the logical implication if everybody abstained. This is particularly the case if he imagines the Poet’s verse alone will provide him with enduring immortality. The logical consequence is that if such selfishness were to become universal then humankind would become extinct.

    2.11     Birth, death and life

    The recognition of the logical status of increase as the necessary link between the sexual dynamic in nature and the possibility of understanding (the dynamic of truth and beauty) has implications for the traditional concern about the relation between ‘life and death’. It converts the concern based on the trajectory of an individual human life and death into the natural relation between birth and death. It acknowledges human life as continuous through the increase process rather than ceasing at death. The traditional relation of ‘life and death’ creates a false dichotomy based on the illogical expectation that life is conditional upon the individual. The human life cycle is not autonomous but is logically related to the rest of life.
            The correct relation of birth and death is stamped on the sequence in the first two lines of the first sonnet.

    From fairest creatures we desire increase,
    That thereby beauty’s Rose might never die,
                                        (Sonnet 1.1-2)

            Death is associated with remaining ‘single’ as in sonnet 3.

        Die single and thine Image dies with thee.
                                        (Sonnet 3.14)

    The natural process is emphasised in sonnet 5.
        But flowers distilled though they with winter meet,
        Lease but their show, their substance still lives sweet.
                                        (Sonnet 5.13-14)

            The persistence of life is emphasised in sonnet 12.

    Since sweets and beauties do them-selves forsake,
    And die as fast as they see others grow,
                                        Sonnet 12.11-12)

            The logical relationship of life, birth and death is maintained throughout the 154 sonnets. One third of the sonnets mention life or death or both. The logical relation established in the increase sonnets is emphasised again and again throughout the set. The nature of immortality, as it is presented in the sonnets, is consistent with this understanding (see 4.21).

    2.12     Sonnets 9 and 10 and the basis of love

    Allied to and inseparable from the increase argument is the determination of the basic conditions for love. Any account of the Sonnets needs to explain the relationship between the various forms of love evident throughout the two sequences of the set.
            Shake-speares Sonnets have been called the greatest love sonnets in the literature. Alongside the accolades, however, there has been a persistent criticism of the Poet’s seeming ambivalence, or even a sense of embarrassment at his perceived lack of tact. W. H. Auden, when considering the supposedly confessional nature of the love relation in his Introduction to Barnet’s Sonnets and Narrative Poems, 1988, could only presume they were pirated:

    Of one thing I am certain: Shakespeare must have been
    horrified when they were published.

            Wordsworth, the nature poet, was no closer to understanding them:

    These sonnets beginning at 127 to his mistress are worse
    than a puzzle-peg. They are abominably harsh, obscure, and
    worthless. The others are for the most part much better,
    have many fine lines and passages. They are also in
    many places warm with passion. Their chief faults - and
    heavy ones they are - are sameness, tediousness, quaintness,
    and elaborate obscurity.

            William Hazlitt, who was not short of things to say about the plays, said of the Sonnets,

    If Shakespeare had written nothing but his sonnets ... he
    would ... have been assigned to the class of cold, artificial
    writers, who had no genuine sense of nature or passion.

            Keats, who attempted a sonnet on the theme of truth and beauty, said,

    They seem to be full of fine things said unintentionally - in the
    intensity of working out conceits.

            And Walter Landor waxed lyrical:

    Not a single one is very admirable, ... They are hot and
    pothery: there is much condensation, little delicacy; like
    raspberry jam without cream, without crust, without bread;
    to break its viscidity.

            And Hazlitt again,

    (The sonnets) ... I think overcharged and monotonous and as
    to their ultimate drift..., I can make neither head nor tail of it.

            In the literature there is no appreciation of the complete dynamic that gives meaning to the whole set of 154 sonnets and so there has existed only bewilderment at the seeming harshness of the description and treatment of the Mistress and the ambivalence towards the idealistic and idealised youth.
            Poets and commentators alike have found the sonnets in the set uneven in quality. When their preferences are examined, though, a prejudice is revealed in favour of the lyrical, the romantic and the ideal as against the more argumentative verse. Typical anthologies of the Sonnets reveal a consistent prejudice against the sonnets identified in this presentation as structurally significant. In general the increase sonnets are not anthologised.
            For instance, John Gielgud’s taped reading of the Sonnets omits those sonnets he or his producers have decided are inferior, such as 135, 145, 153 and 154. His reading voice evidences a telling lack of understanding of the philosophic structure that validates all 154 sonnets.
            There is also a preference for those sonnets interpreted as expressing sentiments akin to Christian values. Sonnet 116, the so-called sonnet to absolute or Platonic love, and sonnet 129, the so-called sonnet to absolute lust and hell are considered by some (Ted Hughes, 1992) to be the key to a full understanding of the sequence. This is despite the fact that sonnet 116 contains some of the more blatant erotic imagery in the sequence.

    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle’s compass come,

                                        (Sonnet 116.7-10)

            Sonnet 129 can easily be read as a harsh condemnation of the excesses of the Church that creates a heaven, or an excessive expectation of an ideal world, that readily leads to a real hell on earth.

    Th’expense of Spirit in a waste of shame
    Before a joy proposed behind a dream,
        All this the world well knows yet none knows well,
        To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
                                        (Sonnet 129.1-14)

            Part of the mission of the Poet is to instill in the youth the recognition of the logical basis for any form of love. The basic condition is given expression at the end of the first 9 sonnets immediately before the Poet introduces himself into the sequence in sonnet 10. As noted earlier, there is a structural break after sonnet 9, separating the first 9 sonnets from the rest. The Poet stipulates that any love the youth feels towards him is logically derived from the basic conditions he enunciates in those sonnets. It should come as no surprise that the definitive expression of the conditions for love occurs in the last two lines of sonnet 9.

    Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye,
    That thou consum’st thyself in single life?

    Ah; if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
    The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
    The world will be thy widow and still weep,
    That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
    When every private widow well may keep,
    By children’s eyes, her husband’s shape in mind:
    Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
    Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it:
    But beauty’s waste hath in the world an end,
    And kept unused the user so destroys it:
        No love towards others in that bosom sits
        That on himself such murd’rous shame commits.

                                        (Sonnet 9)

            The sonnet argues it is impossible to love others with unselfish love if cognizance is not given to the primary relation between humankind. The increase argument establishes the logical priority for the sexual in the determination of the possibility of human existence. The Poet identifies his relationship to nature through increase as the generative basis for his feelings of love. The logic of the human potential to persist is the basis from which any other form of love is possible. It provides the basis for the various forms of love that are explored and expressed in the Sonnets. The Poet’s intense love for the youth (with its homoerotic allusions), and his complex love for the Mistress with its willful desires, is rooted in sonnet 9.
            Sonnets 9 and 10 bridge a structural divide. In the arrangement of sonnets in Q, sonnet 10 is the first sonnet to begin at the top of its page, and it introduces the Poet into the sequence. Across the divide there is thematic continuity as sonnet 10 drives home the point made in 9. The same words (shame, murd’rous) echo down the lines of 10 as the Poet brings himself on line.

    For shame deny that thou bear’st love to any
    Who for thyself art so unprovident.
    Grant if thou wilt, thou art belov’d of many,
    But that thou none lov’st is most evident:
    For thou art so possessed with murd’rous 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:
    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 thy self at least kind hearted prove,
        Make thee an other self for love of me,
        That beauty still may live in thine or thee.
                                        (Sonnet 10)

            The Poet associates the possibility of love between himself and the youth with the logical relation they have as human beings as part of the continuum of life. The youth’s love is selfish if he denies the philosophic significance the continuum has for the profound expression that characterises the content of the Poet’s verse. In encouraging the youth to accept the logical relation of one human to another, the Poet affirms his appreciation of the relation as central to his life and work.
            In these two sonnets, the Poet establishes the logical conditions for life from which the possibility of verse derives. His verse is no substitute for the love he feels toward the youth. Any narcissistic reflection the youth might experience in encountering the Poet’s verse is secondary to the fundamental injunction of sonnet 9. Only after the Poet states the argument of sonnets 9 and 10 can he consider the relation of increase and poetry in sonnets 15 to 19.
            It is no wonder, then, that so many poets and commentators, after slighting the increase sonnets, have failed to get the measure of the consequences of the deep-seated love expressed in every sonnet in the set. They have looked instead for a correspondence to the ideal and hence the idealised love that is the vulnerable love of romanticism and idealism as well as the cheated love of sceptics. The detailed sonnet commentaries of Volume 2 will demonstrate the soundness and the durability of the love in the Sonnets as it is expressed throughout the set.

    2.13     Sonnets 3 and 13, mother and father

    The fourteen increase sonnets occupy one eleventh of the sequence. Their priority over the rest of the sonnets is indicated by their position in the sequence. The point they make in the space of 14 sonnets is critical for the understanding of the whole set. Without the key they provide, the meaning of the extensive treatment of truth and beauty is lost. The Poet is precise in his identification of the salient features of the increase dynamic.
            The basic relationship in the increase sonnets is between mother, father, and child. Two sonnets establish the youth’s personal connection to his role in the human continuum. Sonnets 3 and 13 present the logical condition that, as he had a mother and a father, then it is not an unnatural expectation that he has the potential to increase. This is the dynamic already observed in sonnet 8 where the strings of the instrument are compared to ‘sire, and child, and happy mother’.
            Sonnet 3 argues for the relationship to his mother:

    Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
    Now is the time that face should form an other,
    Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
    Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
    For where is she so fair whose un-eared womb
    Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
    Or who is he so fond will be the tomb,
    Of his self love to stop posterity?
    Thou art thy mother’s glass and she in thee
    Calls back the lovely April of her prime,

    So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
    Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
        But if thou live rememb’red not to be,
        Die single and thine Image dies with thee.
                                        (Sonnet 3)

            Sonnet 13 presents the case for his relationship to his father:

    O that you were your self, but love you are
    No longer yours, than you your self here live,
    Against this coming end you should prepare,
    And your sweet semblance to some other give.
    So should that beauty which you hold in lease
    Find no determination, than you were
    You self again after your self’s decease,
    When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
    Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
    Which husbandry in honour might uphold,
    Against the stormy gusts of winter’s day
    And barren rage of deaths eternal cold?
        O none but unthrifts, dear my love you know,
        You had a Father, let your Son say so.

                                        (Sonnet 13)

            At the very least the youth had a biological mother and father. His mother and father before him had parents. This places the youth at the leading edge of a genealogical continuum. Being born of human parents is the fundamental condition for being a human being. If the youth can be brought to see the inescapable logic of such a claim then he will at least appreciate the driving force behind the Poet’s creativity. He will appreciate that the Poet is a being who has resolved the relationship between his body and mind in terms of the dynamic of the natural world about.

    2.14     Sonnet 14, the priority of increase

    Sonnet 14 brings to a conclusion the various arguments of the increase sequence by affirming the priority of increase over truth and beauty, or the body over the mind. The reasons given in the previous 13 sonnets for the youth to consider the dynamic of increase are a preparation for the definitive statement in sonnet 14 of the relation of increase to truth and beauty.
            The ratio of increase sonnets to truth and beauty sonnets (1:10) indicates the significance Shakespeare gives to matters of the mind. The presence of the increase sonnets, though, establishes the priority of the body over the mind. Shakespeare’s philosophy reverses the denial of the priority of the body for millennia by various religions with the unnatural priority they give to the human mind.
            Sonnet 14 gives the logical condition for the possibility of the mind or the dynamic of truth and beauty. The Poet begins by identifying the source of his ‘judgment’ (14.1) or ‘knowledge’ (14.9). Judgment and knowledge are two words that distinguish aspects of the same activity. This will become clearer when a closer look is taken at the dynamic of truth as it is employed in the Sonnets.
            In the first eight lines the Poet states explicitly that his judgment does not derive from the ‘stars’. Even though he knows he has ‘Astronomy’, it is not the type of astrological guesswork employed by soothsayers, fortunetellers, or stargazers who give a ‘predict’ or prediction of good or evil luck for the likes of Princes.

    Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,
    And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
    But not to tell of good, or evil luck,
    Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality
    Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell;
    Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
    Or say with Princes if it shall go well
    By oft predict that I in heaven find.
                                        (Sonnet 14.1-8)

            At the end of the octet the Poet rejects appeals to the ‘heaven’ by those who would predetermine the future. The Sonnets acknowledge nature, the sovereign mistress, as the primary or logically prior entity. The state of affairs represented by the male God of conventional religion is consequent upon that cosmology. In the world of the Shake-speares Sonnets, the God of religion is located in the sequence to the Master Mistress as an aspect of the ideal. He is contingent on nature and is located in the idealistic imaginings of the human being. As with the youth, the claims made of the male God, along with all other anthropomorphised beings given representation beyond their station in life, are brought to the Audit of Nature in sonnet 126.
            The investigative procedure and the numerological system employed in the Sonnets is logically exact. It does not derive from psychological methods allied to alchemy or astrology or dogma. Marcel Duchamp, when asked if his work was based on such psychological processes, stated ‘If I have practiced alchemy, it was in the only way it can be done now, that is to say without knowing it’. The philosophic exactness of a Duchamp or a Shakespeare obviates the psychological compensation required when the priority of female over the male is ignored or misrepresented.
            The third quatrain identifies the Poet’s source of ‘knowledge’. Knowledge resides in the ‘eyes’ of his fellow human beings because they are the ‘constant stars’ in which ‘such art as truth and beauty’ can be read. But there is a condition. The youth must understand and accept the principle of increase argued for in the previous 13 sonnets. He needs to convert himself to ‘store’, which, as seen earlier, is the process of conserving oneself through increase.

    But from thine eies my knowledge I derive,
    And constant stars in them I read such art
    As truth and beauty shall together thrive
    If from thy self, to store thou wouldst convert:
                                        (Sonnet 14.9-12)

            The youth is not being asked to ‘convert’ to a religion, as such a possibility has been classified as star gazing in the octet. Shakespeare reduces the metaphor of stargazing to its roots. If sonnet 11 identified the logical condition for the persistence of humankind, then sonnet 14 recognises that the possibility of ‘knowledge’ bears a logical relationship to the increase dynamic. The youth should ‘convert’ his mind to acknowledge the fundamental precondition for the existence of humankind. He should accept that knowledge from the ‘eyes’ is prior to his idealistic tendency to create a psychological dependency on conceptions derived blindly from the workings of the mind. He cannot proceed logically without doing so.
            The Poet identifies the ‘constant stars’, the ‘eyes’, as the source of truth and beauty. By any other measure, the stars in the sky are more constant than the short lifespan allotted to any pair of human eyes. Yet Shakespeare uses the image of the eyes in this sense hundreds of times throughout the Sonnets, poems and plays. The eyes, not the skies, are the source of truth and beauty. In Love’s Labour’s Lost Berowne paraphrases the logic of sonnet 14, though this time in terms of ‘women’s eyes’.

    From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive,
    They are the Ground, the Books, the Academes
    From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire.

    Why, universal plodding poisons up
    The nimble spirits in the arteries,
    As motion and long during action tires
    The sinewy vigour of the traveler.
    Now for not looking on a woman’s face,
    You have in that forsworn the use of eyes

    And study too, the causer of your vow;
    For where is any Author in the world,
    Teaches such beauty as a woman’s eye?
    Learning is an adjunct to our self,
    And where we are our Learning likewise is:
    Then when our selves we see in Ladies’ eyes,
    With our selves.
    Do we not likewise see our learning there
                                        (Love’s Labour’s Lost 4.3.1652-68)

            ‘Universal plodding’, or looking to the stars, ‘poisons up the nimble spirits in the arteries’ and ‘the sinewy vigour of the traveler’. Berowne is drawing a direct relationship between the inappropriateness of rationalising in terms of universals and a lack of erotic adventure. The celibacy called for by King Ferdinand is condemned for the same reason that the Sonnets forswear stargazing. Both lead the mind away from the priority logically entailed in the body.
            The eyes, then, have a double function. They are the means of sight and a reference to the sexual organs. In Love’s Labour’s Lost the erotic suggestiveness of the imagery and the change from the ‘women’s eyes’ of the first line, where they are the books to be read, to the singular sexual ‘woman’s eye’ 12 lines later, where ‘beauty is taught’, combines the double function of the ‘constant stars’ into an expression of the logical relationship between the body and the mind.
            In Shakespeare’s works the eyes are the means of determining ‘truth and beauty’. This is not only because they are the principal organ of sense and intellect. When the Poet looks into the youth’s eyes he sees into his mind and into his heart and his imaginary soul. But that ‘soul’ is the meeting point on the ‘traveler’s’ journey. The path from the eyes into the body through the mind intersects the path traveled through the other eye, that of the vagina or the penis, into the heart of the reproductive system. The two connect within the body because it is only from within the reproductive system that the possibility arises of creating another mind and so another heart and soul.
            This image is beautifully and concisely expressed in the ‘eye I eyed’ of sonnet 104. The whole dynamic is succinctly summarised with the eye of the Poet looking into the eye of the youth to determine the status of his selfhood, ‘I’, and simultaneously his sexual disposition, the phallic ‘I’. The triple punning relationship of ‘I’ reads like an erotic engagement of minds. It also captures the relation between the eyes that gives rise to the unique ‘I’ through the increase process.
            Heavenly ‘stars’ fail to provide the logical link the Poet seeks to be able to consistently express the consequences of being a human with a body and a mind. The logical relation expressed in the double image of the eyes counters the predilection for the starry skies by systems of thought that seek to deny the priority of the body.
            When the traditional emendations to the Sonnets are considered it will be demonstrated that the most significant changes are due to the blindness to this fundamental relationship in the Sonnets expressed so definitively in sonnet 14. Most of the notorious ‘their’ to ‘thy’ alterations occur because the reference to eyes in the same quatrain is ignored. The change by some editors (already noted) of ‘my Mistress’ eye’ to ‘my mistress’ eyes’ in sonnet 153 is a classic misreading of the dual dynamic.
            The capacity to determine truth and beauty by making the correct logical connection between the double form of the eyes is conditional on the willingness to appreciate the critical role of increase. The couplet is explicit as to the consequences. If the youth dies without increase then his sense of truth and beauty also dies.

        Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
        Thy end is Truth’s and Beauty’s doom and date.
                                        (Sonnet 14.13-14)

            The logical ramification of the youth’s unwillingness to increase, as explained in sonnet 11, means that truth and beauty have no function if there are no humans left to appreciate the activities and outputs of the mind. For the individual the consequence is the incapacity to use the mind consistent with the dynamic of truth and beauty understood and applied in the Sonnets by the Poet. If an individual imagines the products of his mind survive in his stead when he dies, he would be under a delusion. Even the Poet recognises that only the ‘content’ (sonnet 55) of his Sonnets survives. Shakespeare’s understanding of the relation of the body and mind is consistent with that argued for by Darwin in The Descent of Man.
            The couplet of sonnet 14 affirms the priority of the dynamic of increase over the possibility of truth and beauty. If the primary template affirms the derivation of the sexual possibility from nature, then it is only from that dynamic that the potential for truth and beauty arises.

    2.15     Summary

    The whole set of Sonnets and its two sequences represent nature and the sexual dynamic. The logical consequence is that the first 14 sonnets present the increase argument. The definitive argument for the priority of increase over truth and beauty in sonnet 14 establishes the logical foundation for the remainder of the sonnets.
            Traditional commentators typically ignore the logic of the increase argument. Because much of their prejudice derives from a paradigm inimical to the logical relationship of body and mind, they go to absurd lengths to disparage the first group of sonnets. They wrongly consider sonnet 17 to be the final ‘marriage sonnet’ and so miss the significance of sonnet 14. Besides discounting the significance of the increase sonnets, they claim the ‘marriage’ theme does not recur in the sonnets. While it is true the increase argument is never again the principal focus of a sonnet, the increase theme, in keeping with its foundational role, permeates the remaining sonnets.

    2.16     The Increase template

            The increase argument presents the second precondition for human persistence. It is a direct consequence of the possibility of sexual differentiation in nature as the first precondition.
            The increase sonnets stand as a group at the beginning of the Master Mistress sequence because they represent the logical consequence of sexual differentiation. The division of the sexual types from nature logically implies their consequent re-unification in the act of increase. The basic components are the mother, father and child, or female, male and their issue. The relation can be represented diagrammatically in the Increase template (Diag 25).

    Increase Template

    DIAG 25: Increase template

            Or, in the terminology of the Sonnets (Diag 26),

    Increase Template Sonnets

    DIAG 26: Increase template (Sonnets)

            The sex act is the principal means by which the bodies of the female and the male are reunited and give expression to the reunification in the conception and birth of a child. They experience a unity, characteristic of nature, in the dynamic that simultaneously acknowledges their differentiation. The unity and diversity in nature are recognised and celebrated in the singular event of the birth of the child, and its being female or male.
            The increase sonnets establish the physical precondition for the possibility of the human mind. The number of sonnets in the set dedicated to the truth and beauty dynamic indicates the importance the dynamic has in the life of the human being. The Nature female/male template and Increase template establish the logical foundation on which the edifice of human understanding is built.

    2.17     The Body template

    In Part 1, the template for the sexual division in nature was derived. It is now possible to combine the Nature female/male template with the Increase template to give expression to the logic of the body in nature that is prior to the possibility of truth and beauty or the possibility of human understanding and expression (Diag 27).

    Body Template

    DIAG 27: Body template

            Shakespeare purposely introduces the logical relationship between nature and the possibility of sexual beings into his Sonnets, because he appreciates that the logic of the body in nature determines his capacity to express himself in mythic verse. By accepting the priority of the body over the mind, he is able to write verse that is both mythic and logically consistent. He demonstrates the consistency of his understanding in the 140 sonnets that consider truth and beauty and in the unmatched achievement of his longer poems and plays. The Body template is a given on which his writing is based.

    2.18     The persistence of the increase argument

    There is a misconception that the Sonnets, after the traditionally acknowledged ‘marriage sonnets’, never again encourage the youth to increase. It is thought the sonnets from 18 onwards address more worthy conceits such as immortality through poetry and the Poet’s relationship with a beautiful youth. Not only is such an idealistic attitude to the Sonnets awry, it distorts the consistent presentation of Shakespeare’s natural logic.
            When the systematic presentation of the philosophy in the Sonnets is accepted as Shakespeare’s, the logical pattern established by the sexual dynamic in nature and the requirement to increase is the basis for all the remaining sonnets. Without the argument of the increase sonnets, the remaining sonnets would have no meaning or purpose. The persistence of humankind is a logical condition for the possibility of poetry for human beings.
            So instead of an absence of reference to matters relating to increase in sonnets 20 to 154, the increase argument is a perpetual undercurrent that anchors the dynamic of truth and beauty. The theme of increase surfaces in various ways throughout the remaining sonnets to the Master Mistress and is the basis of the Mistress’ sensibility, as evident in the following examples.

    O let me true in love but truly write,
    And then believe me, my love is as fair,
    s any mother’s child,
    though not so bright
    As those gold candles fixed in heaven’s air:
    (Sonnet 21.9-12)

    I make my love engrafted to this store:
    So then I am not lame, poor, nor despised,
                                        (Sonnet 37.8-9)

    Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
    Than those old nine which rhymers invocate,
    And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
    Eternal numbers to out-live long date.

                                        (Sonnet 38.9-12)

    When wasteful war shall Statues over-turn,
    And broils root out the work of masonry,
    Nor Mars his sword, nor wars quick fire shall burn:
    The living record of your memory.
    Gainst death, and all oblivious enmity
    Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room,
    Even in the eyes of all posterity
    That wear this world out to the ending doom.

    (Sonnet 55.5-12)

    Increasing store with loss, and loss with store,
                                        (Sonnet 64.8)

    Who is it that says most, which can say more,
    Than this rich praise, that you alone, are you,
    In whose confine immured is the store,
    Which should example where your equal grew,

                                        (Sonnet 84.1-4)

    What old December’s bareness every where?
    And yet this time removed was summer’s time,
    The teeming Autumn big with rich increase,
    Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,
    Like widowed wombs after their Lord’s decease:
    Yet this abundant issue seemed to me,
    But hope of Orphans, and un-fathered fruit,
    For Summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

                                        (Sonnet 97.3-11)

        For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred,
        Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

                                        (Sonnet 104.13-14)

        Finding the first conceit of love there bred,
        Where time and outward form would show it dead
                                        (Sonnet 108.13-14)

    O thou my lovely Boy who in thy power,
    Dost hold times fickle glass, his sickle, hour:
    Who hast by waning grown, and therein show’st,
    Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow’st
                                        (Sonnet 126.1-4)

            The presence of the increase dynamic in the truth and beauty sonnets indicates the importance of the increase argument for understanding the meaning of the whole set. Whereas in the increase sonnets, the increase argument is decidedly literal or didactic, in the truth and beauty sonnets, after the transitional poetry and increase sonnets, the increase theme becomes more metaphorical. This change in tone reflects the difference between the sexual dynamic of the increase sonnets and the erotic dynamic of the truth and beauty sonnets.
            The Sonnets of Shakespeare and his poems and plays are not comprehensible if the reader does not carry the increase argument as a perpetually present tool for interpretation. The utility of the increase argument is evident in the commentaries on individual sonnets in Volume 2. They demonstrate how necessary it is to have the Sonnet logic as the basis for investigation to reduce the traditionally mysterious or opaque exterior of the sonnets to palpable and consistent sense.

    2.19     The increase argument in the poems and plays

    In this presentation of the Sonnet philosophy the relationship between the whole set and the Mistress and Master Mistress sequences, and the implication of placing the 14 increase sonnets at the beginning of the set, have been considered. If only these two aspects of the Sonnet organisation are acknowledged there is already significant evidence of Shakespeare’s intent in arranging the set.
            If the organisation of the sonnets in Q was the result of years of gradual refinement, then it can be supposed that the philosophy they express was formulated in Shakespeare’s mind, at least in a rudimentary way, early in his career. There is evidence for this in the consistency of tone and intent throughout the poems and plays. While there is a maturing of vision over time there are strong correspondences between the later and the early plays.
            The argument of these volumes is that the philosophy presented in the Sonnets is Shakespeare’s philosophy and, as a consequence, is the philosophy behind everything he wrote. The traditional quandary about the distinctively Shakespearean treatment of historical source material is answered if the philosophy of the Sonnets is a systematic expression of the understanding that shaped the plays. If the philosophy of the Sonnets has not been appreciated for 400 years then it should not be surprising that Shakespeare’s attitude toward the source material has perplexed every commentator.
            The poems and plays will be dealt with in detail in Volume 3. Of immediate interest is the idea that Shakespeare wrote his plays, poems and sonnets with the basic philosophy behind the Sonnets always in mind. While the Sonnets give a systematic expression of the philosophy, its influence is evident throughout the poems and plays. In particular it should be possible to find instances where the increase argument appears in the plays and the longer poems, and even whole plays like Love’s Labour’s Lost that give the increase argument dramatic expression.
            As early as 1593, in Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare has Venus delivering his increase argument in brief.

        Narcissus so him self him self forsook,
        And died to kiss his shadow in the brook.

    Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
    Danties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
    Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear.
    Things growing to themselves are growth’s abuse,
        Seeds spring from seeds, and beauty breedeth beauty,
        Thou wast begot, to get it is thy duty

    Upon the earth’s increase why shouldst thou feed,
    Unless the earth with thy increase be fed?
    By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
    That thine may live when thou thyself art dead
        And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
        In that thy likeness still is left alive.
                                        (Venus and Adonis 161-74)

            The narcissistic young man, Adonis, is reminded that ‘by a law of nature thou art bound to breed’. His refusal to heed this and other persuasions and arguments gives Venus, as Nature, only one option. She kills him through the agency of a boar. This scenario presages sonnet 126 where Nature brings the youth to audit with the condition that she will ‘render’ him if he fails to heed the increase argument.
            Significantly, in Venus and Adonis, Venus picks the flower that springs from Adonis’ spilt blood with words that symbolise the lost opportunity to increase.

    Poor flower (quoth she) this was thy father’s guise,
    Sweet issue of a more sweet smelling sire
                                        (Venus and Adonis 1177-8)

            Ted Hughes, in his Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (p12), misses the vital reference back to the increase argument at the beginning of the poem. Blinded by the expectation of a resurrection or reincarnation, he sees the flower as Adonis ‘reborn’. This is contrary to the words of the text where the flower is Adonis’ symbolic ‘issue’ whose sex is not given. Adonis becomes a flower because he has returned to nature directly rather than propagating himself as a human being through increase. When the relation between the sexual and the erotic is examined in Part 4, the significance of this event for the status of a poem as a work of art will be made clear.
            In the Threnos of The Phoenix and the Turtle, a poem published in 1601, ‘Truth’ and ‘Beauty’ are turned to cinders because of the Phoenix and Turtle’s disregard for ‘posterity’.


    Beauty, Truth, and Rarity,
    Grace in all simplicity,
    Here enclosed, in cinders lie.
    Death is now the Phoenix’ nest,
    And the Turtle’s loyal breast,
    To eternity doth rest.
    Leaving no posterity,
    Twas not their infirmity,
    It was married Chastity.
    Truth may seem, but cannot be,
    Beauty brag, but ‘tis not she,
    Truth and Beauty buried be.
    To this urn let those repair,
    That are either true or fair,
    For these dead Birds, sigh a prayer.
                                        (The Phoenix and the Turtle 53-67)

            The poet asks those who are ‘true or fair’ to ‘sigh a prayer’, in irony, at the desperate act of the two ‘dead birds’ for whom ‘Truth and beauty’ are now effectively buried. As William Matchett suggests, this is not a Neo-Platonic or Christian allegory in praise of immortality through a divinely consummated ‘love’. It is a dirge to failed opportunity because ‘increase’, or the potential for posterity, is not taken account of by the birds. The original punctuation (given here) is crucial to the meaning of the poem. Commas after ‘enclosed’, ‘posterity’, and ‘birds’, are omitted or altered in most modern editions.
            That Shakespeare refers to the attempted immortal union of the two birds as ‘married chastity’ in a poem published to celebrate a marriage has led many to misread it as a Platonic allegory. Yet, as with the basic plot in so many of the plays, the poem is grounded in the priority of the natural propensity to increase over either the institution of marriage or enforced chastity.
            In Shakespeare’s personal experience with Anne Hathaway, increase came before betrothal and marriage. His relationship with Anne Hathaway was the single most formative experience of his life. He remained with her for a lifetime and it was she who gave him maturity and insight into the processes of nature. She, with her moderating effect on his youthful idealism, is the immediate source of the insight and beauty of the Sonnets.
            The play that best illustrates the Sonnet logic is the one rarely performed over the last few centuries but undergoing a considerable revival in these Darwinian times. Love’s Labour’s Lost is the only play that seems to lack for source material in previous literature. This is because Shakespeare wrote it as a clear expression of the increase argument. It has already been noted that Berowne’s speech at 4.3.1652-68 contains the same sentiment as sonnet 14, the last of the increase sonnets.
            The theme of the whole play is quite simple. Four lords propose three years of study and chastity. One of them, Berowne, anticipates that their natural desires will prevent them accomplishing their idealistic goal. He suggests that, without the possibility of physical relations with women, true understanding is impossible. He is proved right by the subsequent course of events even to the point where the four French ladies assert their priority with regard to nature by stipulating that the men be given a year to think about their fundamental error of judgment.
            This scenario is no more nor less the theme of the Sonnets. It is the pure philosophy of the Sonnets given dramatic and theatrical form. It is no wonder that centuries of theatre-goers have found it inimical to their ingrained institutional idealism. Although, in the last 50 years, the play has been performed more frequently, there has been no recognition of its fundamental philosophy. Rather it is thought that the twentieth century mind might be more disposed to accept the elaborate word play. But is the modern mind so different from Shakespeare’s that it cannot appreciate the philosophy deliberately built into the Sonnet set?
            The difference lies in the inexorable influence of the soundness of the philosophy behind Darwinian thought that echoes through the Sonnets with its definitive arguments for the sexual connection of humans to the rest of nature. Shakespeare was 250 years ahead of Darwin in his appreciation of the natural dynamic, and 400 years ahead of his time in the development of a consistent philosophy.
            Volume 3 considers the pervasive influence of the philosophy of the increase sonnets in detail, play by play. To illustrate the significance of the increase argument a few samples are given from the plays.

    Romeo: Well in that hit you miss, she’ll not be hit
    With Cupid’s arrow, she hath Dian’s wit:
    And in strong proof of chastity well armed:
    From love’s weak childish Bow, she lives uncharmed.
    She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
    Nor bid th’encounter of assailing eyes.
    Nor open her lap to Saint-seducing Gold:
    O she is rich in beauty, only poor,
    That when she dies, with beauty dies her store
    Benvolio: Then she hath sworn, that she will still live chaste?
    Romeo: She hath, and in that sparing make huge waste?
    For beauty starved with her severity,
    Cuts beauty off from all posterity
    She is too fair, too wise: wisely too fair,
    To merit bliss by making me despair:
    She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow
    Do I live dead, that live to tell it now.
                                        (Romeo and Juliet 1.1.216-32)

            In this tragedy, after Romeo and Juliet meet, the consequences of institutional hereditarianism, with its factional feuding and its counterpart in arranged marriages, are visited on the couple who consummate their genuine love and physical desire for increase only to die because of the denatured ideals of their kin.

    Titania: The Spring, the Summer,
    The childing Autumn, angry Winter change
    Their wonted Liveries, and the mazed world,
    By their increase, now knows not which is which;
    And this same progeny of evils
    Comes from our debate, from our dissension,
    We are their parents and original.
                                        (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2.1.486-92)

    Benedick: ...I have railed so long against marriage:
                                            …No the world
    must be peopled
    . When I said I would die a bachelor, I
    did not think I would live till I were married, here comes
    Beatrice: by this day, she’s a fair Lady, I do spy some
    arks of love in her.
                                        (Much Ado about Nothing 2.3.1059-67)

    Parrolles: Virginity being blown down, Man will
    quicklier be blown up: marry in blowing him down
    again, with the breach yourselves made, you lose your
    City. It is not politic, in the Common-wealth of
    Nature, to preserve virginity. Loss of Virginity, is
    rational increase
    , and there was never a Virgin go, till
    virginity was first lost. That you were made of, is
    metal to make Virgins. Virginity, by being once lost,
    may be ten times found
    : by being ever kept, it is ever
    lost: ’tis too cold a companion: Away with’t.
    Helena: I will stand for it a little, though therefore I die
    a Virgin.
    Parrolles: There’s little can be said in’t, ’tis against the
    rule of Nature. To speak on the part of virginity, is
    to accuse your Mothers;
    which is most infallible
    disobedience. He that hangs himself is a Virgin:
    Virginity murders itself, and should be buried by highways
    out of all sanctified limit, as a desperate offendress
    against Nature. Virginity breeds mites, much like a
    Cheese, consumes it self to the very paring, and so
    dies with feeding his own stomach. Besides, Virginity
    is peevish, proud, idle, made of self-love, which
    is the most inhibited sin in the Canon
    . Keep it not,
    you cannot chose but lose by it. Out with’t: within
    ten year it will make itself two, which is goodly
    , and the principle it self not much the worse.
    Away with’t.
                                        (All’s Well, that Ends Well 1.1.128-54)

            The connection between the one and the ten in Parrolle’s speech and the same numbering in the Sonnets suggests that early on Shakespeare was considering the numerological equivalents for his ideas.

    Richard: If I did take the Kingdom from your Sons,
    To make amends. I’ll give it to your daughter:
    If I have killed the issue of your womb,
    To quicken your increase, I will beget
    Mine issue of your blood
    , upon your Daughter:
                                        (Richard the Third 4.4.3079-85)

    Queen: And with the Southern clouds, contend in tears?
    Theirs for the earths increase, mine for my sorrows.
                                        (Henry the Sixth, Part 2, 3.2.2101-2)

    Desdemona: My Noble Father,
    I do perceive here a divided duty.
    To you I am bound for life, and education:
    My life and education both do learn me,
    How to respect you. You are the Lord of duty,
    I am hitherto your Daughter. But here’s my Husband;
    And so much duty, as my Mother showed
    To you, preferring you before her Father:
    So much I challenge, that I may profess
    Due to the Moor my Lord.

                                        (Othello 1.3.527-36)

            Desdemona’s statement (similar to the avowal by Cordelia in King Lear) establishes her adherence to the increase argument. The failure of all the other principal characters to recognise its fundamental force leads to tragedy for them all.
            The benign response of Cordelia and the hostile reaction of Edmund, given in response to the denial of the increase argument by Lear and Gloucester, are the driving force behind the tragedy of King Lear.

    Cordelia: Good my Lord,
    You have begot me, bred me, loved me.
    I return those duties back as are right fit,
    Obey you, Love you, and most Honour you.
    Why have my Sisters’ Husbands, if they say
    They love you all? Happily when I shall wed,
    That Lord, whose hand must take my plight, shall carry
    Half my love with him, half my Care, and Duty,
    Sure I shall never marry like my Sisters.

                                        (King Lear 1.1.102-10)

            Cordelia’s statement is the pivotal moment in King Lear. Cordelia identifies the reason why the coming tragedy will occur. As with Desdemona in Othello, no one else appreciates the logic of the increase relation. King Lear seems to the modern mind the greatest of the tragedies because it is doubly tragic. If Cordelia represents the innocent but wise victim, then in the Gloucester sub-plot, Edmund represents the innocent but unwise victim. He reacts with vengeance to the non-observance of the increase dynamic by his father and the other characters.

    Edmund: Thou Nature art my Goddess, to thy Law
    My services are bound
    , wherefore should I
    Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
    The curiosity of Nations, to deprive me?
    For that I am some twelve, or fourteen Moonshines
    Lag of a Brother? Why Bastard? Wherefore base?
    When my Dimensions are as well compact,
    My mind as generous, and my shape as true
    As honest Madam’s issue? Why brand they us
    With Base? With baseness Barstardy? Base, Base?

    Who in the lusty stealth of Nature, take
    More composition, and fierce quality,
    Then doth within a dull stale tired bed
    Go to the creating a whole tribe of Fops
    Got ’tween a sleep and wake? Well then,
    Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land,
    Our Father’s love, is to the Bastard Edmund,
    As to th’legitimate: fine word: Legitimate.
    Well, my Legitimate, if this Letter speed,
    And my invention thrive, Edmund the base,
    Shall to th’Legitimate: I grow, I prosper:
    Now Gods, stand up for Bastards.

                                        (King Lear 1.2.335-56)

            The importance of the speech cannot be underestimated. It identifies ‘Nature’ as Shakespeare’s ultimate recourse, as in the Sonnets, and argues for the priority of increase over all other claims to priority. Gloucester’s later blinding is a symbolic restitution for his misuse of the ‘eye’ of his sexual parts and the subsequent abuse of his progeny.
            Lear’s end is more tragic because his offence is against the knowing and understanding representative of nature, his daughter Cordelia. His deafness to her statement of the logic of increase is too profound to save her from death. Shakespeare removes the Christian imagery from the original play to create one based on nature and natural principles. Lear’s deafness is the deafness of idealist dogma to common sense.
            In The Tempest, 'breeds' and 'issue' occur.

    Prospero: Fair encounter
    Of two most rare affections: heavens rain grace
    On that which breeds between ‘em

    Ferdinand: As I hope
    For quiet days, fair Issue, and long life,
                                        (Tempest 3.1.1323-5 and 4.1.1676-7)

            Even in a play not in the 1623 Folio, so of dubious attribution, 'issue' is mentioned.

    Pericles: I sought the purchase of a glorious beauty,
    From whence an issue I might propagate.
                                        (Pericles 1.2.318-19)

    2.20     Conclusion

    The increase argument anchors the whole sequence of 154 sonnets in the bedrock of the female/male dynamic as critical to human survival. As a given for the Mistress and as a precondition for the youth, sonnet 14 gives the logical relation between increase and truth and beauty with its insistence that increase is prior to truth and beauty.
            The pervasive dynamic of increase, which characterises every moment of human life for both body and the mind, persists through the whole set of Sonnets. From the first line of the first sonnet the appreciation of the role of increase is paramount if human beings are to persist. The pervasiveness continues through A Lover’s Complaint, and throughout the longer poems and the plays. Increase is the source of human life and so the logical basis for the dynamic of truth and beauty or human understanding.
            Based on the logic of the increase dynamic in nature as a given, the 140 sonnets that present the dynamic of truth and beauty consider the variety of possibilities derived from the senses and expressible through language. The logic of language, with its dynamic of naming and the formulation of propositions, enables representations of the world in thought or expressed in writing that can be consistent or inconsistent with the possibilities within nature.
            While language has enabled the evaluation and storage of information to greatly increase the range of possibilities of human invention, some of the possibilities are not feasible. The increase sonnets set the limits for the defeasibility of criteria for humankind. In other words the human being would have to be another sort of being for some of the possibilities to be realised in nature.
            Part 3 presents the logic of truth and beauty articulated in the Sonnets. The consistency of Shakespeare’s presentation of truth and beauty is conditional upon the logic presented in Parts 1 and 2.

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    Contents and Introduction   +   Nature and the sexual dynamic   +   The increase argument
    Truth and beauty   +   The logic of myth   +   The cryptic numerology   +   Appendices   +   Glossary

    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005