Sonnet 3 | Monologues Unpacked
shakespeare sonnet 3

Sonnet 3

Written by on | Shakespeare

The third of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and the third in the Fair Youth phase. In this sonnet, we have the Poet saying to the Fair Youth that they should have a child in an effort to immortalize their beauty. A strong request from anyone, but let’s take a look at exactly what the Poet has to say.

Original Text

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
Now is the time that face should form another,
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose uneared 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 remembered not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.

Verse Breakdown

Bold = Stressed
Unbold = Unstressed
ABCDEFG = Rhyming Pattern
(F) = Feminine Ending

First Quatrain

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest, A
Now is the time that face should form another, B (F)
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest, A
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother. B (F)

Second Quatrain

For where is she so fair whose uneared womb C
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry? D
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb C
Of his self-love, to stop posterity? D

Third Quatrain

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee E
Calls back the lovely April of her prime; F
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see, E
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time. F

Rhyming Couplet

But if thou live remembered not to be, G
Die single and thine image dies with thee. G

Modern Translation

Look in your mirror and tell the face you see
Now is the time that you should have a child
Whose youthful beauty if you don’t reproduce now
You will cheat the world and deprive some mother of a blessing
Who out their is so beautiful that would
Not want to be the mother to your child
Or who out there is so foolish to let
His own self love stop him from being a father
You are a reflection of your mother and in you
She can see once more the springtime of her prime
So when you are old and wrinkled you’ll see
Your youth in your child
But if you live and never have a child
You’ll die alone and your image dies with you

Thought Breakdown & Analysis

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
Look in the mirror and tell your face.

We begin like many sonnets, with a proposal. A challenge.

Now is the time that face should form another,
Now is the time you should have a child.

A pretty full on request but hey, that’s Shakespeare.

Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Who’s youthful beauty that if you don’t reproduce now

So this tells us why the poet is making the request. Something to do with their beauty. So we can make the assumption that the poet is speaking to the Fair Youth.

Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
You cheat the world and rob a mother of a blessing.

So the Poet has told the Fair Youth that if they don;t have a child they’ll be robbing the world and a would-be mother of the blessing of both a child and the Fair Youth’s beauty.

For where is she so fair whose uneared womb
Where is she that’s so beautiful whose unsown womb

So we’ve gotten into the second quatrain and thus the first piece of evidence to support the argument presented in the first quatrain. So what’s the poet on about?

Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Would show disdain at having a child with you?

So who’s so beautiful that they wouldn’t wanna have a child with you?

Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Or who’s stupid enough to let.

To let what?

Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
His own self absorption stop him from having a child?

So who’s so stupid to let their own self love, their own narcissism stop them from having a child? So that’s two questions posed in this quatrain. One a much more direct question of the Fair Youths thoughts and actions. Practically saying that ‘ if you don’t have a child, then you’re a fool’.

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
You are a reflection of your mother and she in you.

Start of the third quatrain and as usual we’ve changed tact. Basically they’re saying you look just like your mother.

Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
Can relive the lovely springtime of her prime.

So they’re saying you look just like your mother and she can see her former beauty. We’ve gone from quite an aggressive tactic in the second quatrain to this, it’s not that different but it’s more passive. And we’re about to expand on it.

So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
So when you’re old and your beauty fades

What will happen?

Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
Despite your age you’ll be able to see your youth in your child.

So the third quatrains argument is essentially that if the Fair Youth doesn’t have a child they’ll never be able to relive their youth when they’re old, just as their mother can with them.

  But if thou live remembered not to be,
But if you live and are not remembered

They’re saying if you live and never have a child.

  Die single and thine image dies with thee.
Die alone and your image dies with you.

The final argument in the court case that is The Poet VS the Fair Youth, and it sums it up nicely. If you don’t have a child, not only will you die alone, but your image will be lost forever.

Unfamiliar Language

Glass (n.)
old form:
glasse
mirror, looking-glass

Unbless (v.)
old form:
vnblesse
deprive of a blessing, deny happiness to

Beguile (v.)
cheat, deceive, trick

Uneared (adj.)
old form:
vn-eard
unsown, unploughed, untilled

Husbandry (n.)
farming, land management

Tillage (n.)
tilling, cultivation

Fond (adj.)
foolish, stupid, mad

About the Author

Jake Fryer-Hornsby

Jake Fryer-Hornsby is an actor, writer, and educator based in Sydney, and originally hailing from regional Western Australia. Jake graduated from WAAPA in 2017 and since then has gone on to work on and off stages around the country. You can find Jake taking shelter from the sun in any number of outdoor areas and/or on the hunt for his next caffeine fix.

About the Author

Jake Fryer-Hornsby

Jake Fryer-Hornsby is an actor, writer, and educator based in Sydney, and originally hailing from regional Western Australia. Jake graduated from WAAPA in 2017 and since then has gone on to work on and off stages around the country. You can find Jake taking shelter from the sun in any number of outdoor areas and/or on the hunt for his next caffeine fix.

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