SONNET 73: A CRITICAL APPRECIATION

Sonnet 73 mainly focuses on the theme of old age and its effect on human lives. Throughout the sonnet Shakespeare’s intent is to allow his audiences to observe the consequences and outcomes of old age. To properly get his opinion across to his readers Shakespeare uses a variety of metaphors throughout the three quatrains to help his audiences distinguish what he understands to be old age. The tone of his voice is in some sense negative and cold because the thought of old age which results in death is hardly enjoyed and becomes the burden on the lives of each individual. This sonnet addresses to his lover who is considered to be a man. Shakespeare informs his audiences that old age and death both share- s an inevitable relationship and each individual must experience at one point in their lifetime.

The initial quatrain of sonnet 73 presents a highly compressed metaphor in which he visualizes the ruined arches of church, the memory of singing voice, still echoing in them and compares this with the naked boughs of early winter with which he identifies himself. The poet perceives that “time of year” when it is dark cold and gloomy, the time after the “yellow leaves” have disappeared, the birds have stopped singing, and have left the branches, the place of residence. Throughout the first quatrain Shakespeare reveals that his lover is aging through his eyes, comparing him to a tree without leaves “none or few do hang”. As a result the lover’s body shivers, portraying that he has lost his youth and he is unable to take cold.

In the second quatrain Shakespeare focuses on the twilight of “such a day” as death approaches throughout the night-time. He is concerned with the change of light from twilight to   sunset to black night, revealing the last hour of life. Thus he will not regain the black night. As a result the youth begins to fade away and old age leads him to the path of death.

The final quatrain of Shakespeare’s sonnet is the final stage in which the youth disappeared forever. As the fire goes out when the wood which has been seen feeding it is consumed so is life extinguished when the strength of youth is past. He compares the burning fire which slowly goes out to the passing away of life as old age prevails youth. Shakespeare is concerned with the reality of death. He realizes that what he has nourished and must now expire. The ashes of his youth burn brightly as he recognizes that what brightened up his youth is devoured by the fire. As a result Shakespeare informs his audiences that we must “love more strongly” because in the end we are going to leave it all behind and respond to death.

The poet is preparing his friend not for literal death but for the metaphorical death of youth and passion. The poet’s great insecurities swell as he concludes that the young man is now only focused on the sign of aging- as the poet is himself. This is illustrated by the linear development of three quatrains. The first two quartrains establish what the poet perceives the young man now sees as he looks at the poet , those yellow leaves and bare boughs. The third quatrain reveals that the poet is speaking not of his impending physical death but the death of his youth and subsequently the death of his desires.

In every Shakespearean sonnet contained four stanza,  the first three carry four lines each and last has just two lines. A couplet is often seen in his writing towards the end of the poem, scenes or chapters. The rhyme scheme in the first three stanzas is ABAB meaning that the last words in every other line rhyme.

Last modified: Monday, 11 May 2020, 7:54 PM