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Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 - Essay Example

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This paper will look time, sensory images and the final couplet of the sonnet to show that Shakespeare's grasp of the temporal and sensual creates an effectively depressing atmosphere…
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Shakespeares Sonnet 73
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Shakespeare's Sonnet 73

The first two metaphors refer to cyclical events: the speaker compares his old age to winter (1) and to twilight (5). The decrease in length of time – from a year to a day – has often been commented on as reflecting the speaker's gradual acceptance of his own death, but an equally valid interpretation is that neither of these metaphors appropriately address the finality of dying. Winter takes place not just at the end of the year, but also at its beginning: the Christian notion of an afterlife comes across at full strength, along with hints that even if the speaker does believe in a life after death, they do not fully realize that such a life would be far removed from an earthly one. The use of twilight as a metaphor does represent an evolving acceptance of the end of life, as 'twilight' refers specifically to the end of the day. It does, however, have a twin in dawn, and is also not a true ending because it is part of a cyclical event. It is only in the final quatrain, which portrays a “fire” (9), that the speaker comes to realize the extent of their own mortality. Although other fires will no doubt exist in the future, each fire is an entity of itself, feeding so voraciously off its own nourishment that it gutters out. The fire is not cyclical, and offers little hope of returning to life, just like the speaker. All of the metaphors use very sensory imagery to portray their meanings. The speaker draws attention to the visual, invoking a picture of a young and old man standing opposite one another, as the old intones that “thou mayst in me behold” (1) the winter of life; “In me thou seest” (5) the twilight of life; and “In me thou se'est” (9) a dying fire. It is a very visible poem, but this is not the only sense with which Shakespeare plays. The evocation of “Bare ruin'd choirs” (4) creates a vacancy of sound, the ringing silence that occurs once the echoes of a song have dissipated; a feeling of shivering cold emanates from “those boughs which shake against the cold” (3). The final two metaphors conjure forth a sense of darkness, a tunnel which draws one imperceptibly into the “black night [which] doth take away” (7), hampering the visual images from the earlier part of the poem. The reader is overwhelmed with sensory experience. The final couplet of the sonnet draws on the strong manipulations of time and one's senses to impress the reader with the deep significance of the multi-layered command. The speaker makes reference to the visual imagery of the earlier metaphors with “This thou perceivest” (13); he also asks the listener to love with more intensity, given his own decrepitude and the listener's own similar fate. Calling upon his own, shortened time, and the extended time of bodily decay of “thou” (1, 5, 9, 13), the speaker imbues his sparse words with multiple intentions in order to make the most out of the sonnet. The line “To love that well which thou must leave ere long” (14) asks the listener to love the speaker, whose time on this earth is limited, and to love their own youth before ageing takes them. The speaker's own horror of old age is tinged with fear that their younger companion is not enjoying ... Read More
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