When I delved into William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2 I speculated about poem’s assertion that having children was a remedy against the despair of getting old and dying. As I ponder Sonnet 3 it seems that Shakespeare is developing this concept further.
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.
Here we have a look at the connection and opposition between sex and death or creation and destruction. This often talked and written about association runs through several of the world’s cultures in the form of religion, literature, art, etc. Several centuries later, Freud, who did not originate, but developed this theory extensively, argued that this was a natural, built - in part of the human psyche. I am somewhat skeptical of Feud’s claim though I do not completely disregard the possibility. Either way it seems that Shakespeare has tapped into and has built an aesthetic castle based upon this ubiquities concept.
In the above, the “tillage of thy husbandry” stands a defense against “the tomb Of his self-love.” The act of procreation is life’s compensation for the cold reality of human mortality. By having children, the object of the verse can triumph over the inevitable. Here Shakespeare seems to be illustrating that procreation is stronger then death.
Shakespeare conveys all this with language and imagery that is sublime. Of course one can put aside all the theorizing and speculation and just enjoy the words. I cannot wait to take a close look at more of these little aesthetic gems.
My commentary on the additional Sonnets: