Shakespeare’s Sonnet 3: Look in Thy Glass and Tell the Face Thou Viewest


William Shakespeare’s sonnet 3, “Look in Thy Glass and Tell the Face Thou Viewest” is actually one of the first seventeen sonnets out of 154 sonnets. These seventeen poems carry the theme of procreation. Here, again the poet addresses the Fair Youth and tries to force him to have a wife and carry on his lineage.

In the first quatrain, the poet addresses the Fair Youth. The poet asks the Fair Youth to have a look at his face in the mirror. He tells that it is the best time for Fair Youth to tell his face to form another beautiful and charming face. If the Fair Youth does not pass his beauty to the next generation in the form of a beautiful child, he is cheating everybody. He will cause unhappiness and dejection for a mother.

In the second quatrain, the poet tells that there is no beautiful and charming woman that will not like to be the mother of his child. Then, the poet tells his doubt about a beautiful man. He says if there is any beautiful man who will not like to be a father. He asks if the Fair Youth is so obsessed with self-love that he is ready to die without producing a child.

In the third quatrain, the poet addresses his friend, the Fair Youth that his beauty is actually the image of his mother’s beauty. His mother can easily recall her own beauty and youth if she sees his beauty. Similarly, the Fair Youth can recall his youth and beauty if he has a glimpse at his child but it will be possible if he produces a child.

In the last two lines of the poem, the poet says that the only way one wants to be remembered is one must have children. That’s why, the poet warns his friend to have children to be remembered. Otherwise, he will have to die alone. Definitely, he will have no one to remember him after his death. His beauty will go with him.

Structure of the Poem:

The structure of the poem is traditional. It consists of 14 lines. The first 12 lines constitute 3 quatrains and the last 2 lines make a couplet.

William Shakespeare has used literary devices to make his poem interesting and convey his message. The use of a couplet is remarkable. The last two lines in the form of a couplet are significant and convey the basic message of the poem.

“but if thou live rememb’red not to be

Die single, and thine image dies with thee.”

Similarly, William Shakespeare has skillfully made the use of “End Rhymes” i.e. the end of rhyming words. The end rhymes used in the poem are “bee and thee”, “prime and time”, and “another and mother”, etc. similarly, the poet has used iambic pentameter. The use of all these literary devices has made this poem a masterpiece in the history of English literature.

The Theme of the Poem:

In so far as the theme of the poem is concerned, once again the theme of the poem is ‘Procreation’ i.e. the birth of the offspring. The poet, William Blake, once again in the poem advises the Fair Youth to produce his children so that he could be recalled by his children in the future. With a wrinkled face, he would be able to see his beauty in the form of his children’s beauty. He warns the Fair Youth that he must have his children otherwise, he will be alone and die alone. No one will be there to remember the Fair Youth.