Shakespeare’s “mirror” images

Poor broken glass, I often did behold
In thy sweet semblance my old age new born;
But now that fresh fair mirror, dim and old,
Shows me a bare-boned death by time out-worn:
O, from thy cheeks my image thou hast torn,
And shivered all the beauty of my glass,
That I no more can see what once I was!

(Passage from The Rape of Lucrece , a poem by William Shakespeare)

Here Lucretius is mourning the death of his daughter Lucrece when she kills herself after her rape by Tarquin. He calls her a mirror for himself, now broken, showing only her bare-boned death .The mirror which once showed his own living image ( A child is a father’s image) is now broken showing a distorted image, implying his own death , she being a mere image of him.

“Shivered all the beauty of my glass” is a beautiful image which only Shakespeare could have thought of. A splintered glass can only give out fragments of an image. Lucrece has torn the image of her father from her cheeks when she has embraced death. Her death signifies his own death.

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