William Shakespeare’s sonnet cycle is famous with its rich metaphorical style. The depth of each sonnet comes from its multilayered meanings and images, which are reinforced by its structure, sound, and rhythm. Sonnet #73 provides an excellent example. This sonnet shows the speaker’s agony over human mortality and, moreover, his/her way of coping with it in an effective way. The speaker, especially in terms of his cognizance of time, experiences dramatic changes in two ways: (1) from time measured by quantity to time as quality, (2) from cyclical time to a linear one. These changes, manifested by a set of images (autumn, twilight, glowing), enable him/her to embrace his/her mortality as an essential element of a human being. This double structure of the sonnet achieves its richness by its sub-level imagery based on eroticism, which has been one of the most common cures for the inevitability of one’s own death throughout human history.
A clear contrast exists between the first two quatrains and the third quatrain in terms of the speaker’s understanding of time. In the first and second quatrain, the speaker perceives time as a quantitative entity. “That time of” one’s life, in the first quatrain, is not called ‘autumn’ but described as “yellow leaves, or none, or few”(1-2). This quantifiable image presents time as if it can be taken away one by one. It alludes that death would come as the drop of the last leaf of a tree. Furthermore, the process of getting old and dying happens in a sadistic way. Time seems to tear off one’s life which strives to cling to the boughs “which shake against the cold,/ Bare ruined choirs”(3). The cold wind, which stri…
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…According to him, death means one’s discontinuity, but through reproductive activities, one can obtain the continuity of his being. (Georges Bataille. Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo. Walkner and Company: New Yor, 1962. Originally printed with a different title, L,Erotisme, in 1957.)
Works Cited and Consulted
Booth, Stephen, ed. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
Duncan-Jones, Katherine, ed. Shakespeare’s Sonnets. London: Arden Shakespeare.
Georges Bataille. Death and Sensuality: A Study of Eroticism and the Taboo. Walkner and Company: New York, 1962.
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 3rd ed. Longman: Essex, England: Longman Group Ltd. 1995
Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 73.” The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ed. David Bevington. 3rd. ed. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman, 1980.
Essay on Metaphors for Death in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73
Metaphors for Death in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73
William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73: That Time of Year Thou Mayest in Me Behold” is a sonnet that examines the fears and anxieties that surround growing old and dying — a topic that resonates within us all. Shakespeare’s use of metaphor to illustrate decay and passing are striking, and sets a somber tone throughout. He uses the season of Fall, the coming of night, and the burning out of a flame as metaphors for old age and death, and then uses the last two lines to suggest that we should love and cherish life while we can.
The first four lines of the sonnet reflect the changing of seasons, and the oncoming of Fall:
That time of year thou mayest 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.
The season of Fall has often been used as a metaphor for the passing of time. The seasons of Spring and Summer — the time of blooming flowers, vibrant colors, and long, hot days — are gone. Fa…