Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Abby's Analysis of Sonnet 73

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That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. 
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
   This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 reflects on the coming of old age through the repeated use of metaphor. The first quatrain describes different aspects of a tree at the end of the fall season: yellow leaves, cold wind shaking the leaves off of the tree, empty branches where birds once sang. The claim is that one could see these things in the speaker, implying that he is nearing the end of his life. Winter, being the end of the cycle of seasons here, becomes death. 
The second quatrain describes the speaker as the last light of day, making the darkness of night into death. The third quatrain describes the speaker as a fire lying on the “ashes of youth,” again implying that the speaker is not yet dead, but very close. 

Compare in Content:
Sonnet 73 is actually characterized as falling into a group with Sonnets 71, 72, and 74. All anticipate the poet’s death and consider the memory that he might leave behind.
Compare in Form:

Sonnets 71, 72, and 74 do not use a series of metaphors. Sonnets 71 and 74 personify the world and focus on the imagery of a tomb (worms, clay). Sonnet 72 focuses entirely on potential conversations that the speaker’s beloved might have once he is dead, and the only metaphor hear asked to bury the speaker’s memory along with his body.


  1. I really appreciate your comparing this sonnet to those it is grouped with, that was helpful in looking at this piece in a broader sense.

  2. I think it's fascinating (although I don't have the time right now to delve into it) to look at each sonnet as it relates to its position within the sonnet cycle. I'm sure many scholars have done so. It's important to remember that each sonnet can stand alone but can also be looked at in context with its neighboring sonnets to find more meaning.