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Sonnet 3 - Study Guide

Study Guide to Shakespeare's Sonnet 3


Shakespeare’s Sonnet 3: Look In Thy Glass, And Tell The Face Thou Viewest is elegantly written and noted for its simplicity and efficacy.

The poet reminds us of the fair youth’s self-preoccupation; in the first line, Shakespeare mentions the fair youth looking into a mirror to remind us of his vanity.

In refusing to breed the fair youth is denying a woman (or women in general). He is again accused of self-love. The poet informs us that the fair youth is very much like his mother, suggesting that he is quite feminine. This comparison between the fair youth and a woman frequently features in Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Shakespeare suggests that his beauty reminds the world and his mother of how pretty she once was. He is in his prime and should act now – if the fair youth continues to be single, his beauty will die with him.

You can read the full text to Sonnet 3 in our collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Sonnet 3: The Facts

  • Sequence: Sonnet 3 is part of the Fair Youth Sonnets
  • Key Themes:Procreation, a child providing evidence of one’s worth and former beauty, to abstain is to deny the world, preoccupation with the fair youth’s feminine features, death prohibiting the continuation of beauty, and obsession with the fair youth’s beauty
  • Style: Sonnet 3 is written in iambic pentameter and follows the traditional sonnet form

Sonnet 3: A Translation

Look in the mirror and tell your face that now is the time your face should create another (to have a child). These youthful looks, if you do not procreate, will be lost and the world will be denied, as would the potential mother of your child.

The woman who has not been fertilised would not frown upon the way you do the fertilising.

Are you so in love with yourself that you would let yourself perish rather than procreate? You look just like your mother and in you, she is able to see how beautiful she once was in her prime.

When you are old you will see that despite your wrinkles, you will be so proud of what you did in your prime. But if you live and you do not breed you will die single and your beauty will die with you.

Sonnet 3: Analysis

The poet implores the fair youth to procreate now. This urgency is apparent and the speaker clearly believes there is no time to spare, perhaps because his own feelings for the fair youth are growing and he wants to deny these feelings by urging him into a heterosexual union as soon as possible before his feelings get out of control?

The intensity of the poet’s feelings towards the fair youth grows throughout the sonnets and this poem demonstrates his growing obsession.

Want to read the entire poem? Our collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets contains the original text to Sonnet 3.

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