Sonnet 3 Decyphered – UPDATED with Audioblog

In an attempt to learn how to write better, I am continuing the Bradbury Challenge. I will read poetry, short stories and technical articles in order to contemplate why they work. In this post, I will be working with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 3.

“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 unear’d 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 shall see

Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.

But if thou live, remember’d not to be,

Die single, and thine image dies with thee.”

-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 3

Initial Reaction

I think the amount of time I spent with Sonnets 1 and 2 really primed to pick up on the message straight away. I don’t think I was halfway through before I got the message.

Initial Interpretation

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,

First Interpretation: Look at yourself honey, it’s time to settle down and make a baby. It’s not right that your beauty go to waste and you not bring forth more, beautiful children,

For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb

Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

Of his self-love, to stop posterity?

First Interpretation: Tillage of husbandry means the work done by farmers to make the earth produce. Where is a woman so beautiful she refuses to use her womb? What man will be in love with himself so much that he forsakes having children and dies alone.

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 shall see

Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.

First Interpretation: Your mothers sees and recalls her youth when you were made. You are now of marriageable age, of the age to be a mother. Don’t worry, when you are old, you will be able to look upon your own daughter and recall your youth and beauty, too.

But if thou live, remember’d not to be,

Die single, and thine image dies with thee

First Interpretation: If you live single and never reproduce, you will die alone as will your image.

Upon Repeated Reading

I gleaned greater insights from repeated readings. Last time I placed the first and second interpretations side by side, but this time I chose to synthesize the deeper meaning into the second interpretation, for a smoother reading.

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,

Second Interpretation: This is a naked appeal to vanity to encourage young women to marry and have children. Well, at least to have children.

For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb

Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

Of his self-love, to stop posterity?

Second Interpretation: Making the kids is the fun part anyway, so why not give it a shot?

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 shall see

Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.

Second Interpretation: It may not sounds great now, but with age comes wisdom and you’ll see the endeavor as worthwhile.

But if thou live, remember’d not to be,

Die single, and thine image dies with thee

Second Interpretation: It’s up to you to leave mark on the world or fade away

An Addendum

I can’t tell if this is an outcry against virginity or against the use of prophylactics. I would think in Shakespeare’s time that only abstinence or some form of prevention would suffice to stop someone from reproducing. He married Anne Hathaway at 18. He died at 52. The average life expectancy in his time was 42! Why would people not be having kids. The Sonnet seems far more appropriate for today’s world. Between folks who beleive we are choking out Earth Mother Gaia with our pollution and waste. Does anyone find it funny that humans expire CO2 and Climate change is attributed to CO2 emissions? It is as if the very existence of people threatens to destroy Earth’s ecology. This thread can take us to some strange places, so I am going to just let it hang there for now. Anyway, I don’t know much about the culture and health scene in Elizabethan England, but it makes me question my presuppositions. Was there a low birthrate at the time? What would have motivated a poem like this and the two preceding it with such a clear message of “Hey people, have some kids already!”?

Sonnet 3 Recyphered – Shakespeare Condensed and Modernized

Hey there Good-Lookin’
Why you ain’t cookin’?
Why bother getting hot
To stir an empty pot?
Steam leaves no dishes high
Nor does it satisfy
Let’s make a meal for three
-Matthew Muñoz

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