Looke in thy glasse and tell the face thou vewest, Shakespeare: Summary & Analysis

"Looke in thy glasse and tell the face thou vewest" is another Shakespearean sonnet that reflects on the passage of time and the importance of procreation. The speaker addresses the reader, urging them to reflect on their appearance and consider the legacy they leave behind. The poem emphasizes the connection between one's physical image and their role in perpetuating future generations.

"Looke in thy glasse and tell the face thou vewest"

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 unearned 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.

Simpler Modern Translation

Look in your mirror and see the face you look at,
Now is the time that face should create another;
If you don't renew its fresh appearance now,
You deceive the world and deny a mother's blessing.
For where is she so beautiful whose unworn womb
Rejects the cultivation of your efforts?
Or who is he so foolish to be the grave
Of his self-love, preventing future generations?
You are your mother's reflection, and she in you
Recalls the lovely springtime of her prime,
So you, through the windows of your age, will see
In spite of wrinkles, this precious time of yours.
But if you live and aren't remembered,
Die alone, and your image dies with you.

Summary

"Looke in thy glasse and tell the face thou vewest" urges self-reflection and the renewal of life through procreation. The speaker emphasizes that failing to create new life is to deny the world's continuation and the beauty of generations to come. The poem underscores the role of individuals in shaping the future and calls attention to the potential consequences of remaining childless.

Critical Analysis

The sonnet directs the reader to contemplate their reflection and consider the significance of the face they see. It emphasizes that the current face should "forme an other," suggesting that procreation is a way to perpetuate life and beauty.

The poem argues that not renewing through procreation is a deception that cheats the world of potential lives. The phrase "Thou doo’st beguile the world" portrays a failure to fulfill one's responsibility to future generations.

The speaker questions the wisdom of those who choose not to have children. The metaphor of an "vn-eard wombe" and the refusal to engage in "tillage of thy husbandry" suggests an unwillingness to contribute to the growth of future generations.

The poem highlights the connection between generations. The reference to being "thy mothers glasse" indicates that one's appearance reflects the earlier generation, symbolizing a continuation of life and beauty.

Themes

  • Legacy and Procreation: The poem underscores the importance of procreation as a means of preserving beauty and contributing to the world's continuation.
  • Responsibility: The poem critiques the choice not to have children, suggesting that it is a failure to fulfill a vital role in society.
  • Generational Connection: The poem highlights the connection between generations and the role individuals play in carrying forward the legacy of their ancestors.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Urge for Procreation: The poem urges individuals to consider their responsibility in perpetuating life and beauty through procreation.
  • Critical Reflection: The poem reflects a critical attitude towards those who choose not to have children, emphasizing the potential consequences of such a choice.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The metaphor of a "glasse" and the reflection of previous generations through offspring symbolizes the connection between generations.
  • Repetition: The repetition of the idea of reflection and the face in the mirror reinforces the theme of self-reflection and self-awareness.

Discussion Question

How does "Looke in thy glasse and tell the face thou vewest" convey the importance of procreation in continuing beauty and contributing to the world's future? How does the poem's emphasis on reflection and renewal highlight the individual's role in shaping the legacy of future generations?

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