William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73” Literature Analysis Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Mar 30th, 2020


Sonnet 73 is arguably one of the most popular poems because its theme is developed uniquely using metaphorical language. The subject matter of this sonnet is adulthood and its impact on human beings. This sonnet is addressed to a juvenile friend who is probably a man. Apart from the couplet, the three quatrains are meditative in tone. Throughout this sonnet, the speaker attempts to explain to his friend the challenges of old age. This paper discusses the use of images in sonnet 73, written by Shakespeare.

Evaluation of the Images Employed in the Sonnet

The arrangement of this sonnet is distinctive because it consists of one verse and three quatrains. This arrangement is inimitable because the three quatrains have comprehensive phrases. The images used in this sonnet shorten in the period from months to days and finally to minutes. This speeding up of events is a metaphor for the increasingly fast speed at which adulthood affects the human body. Therefore, the structure of the quatrains and images contribute to the overall efficiency of this sonnet.

In this sonnet, several metaphors have been used to epitomize the nature of old age. In all the quatrains, each metaphor refers to something distinctive. In the first line of quatrain one, the speaker tells his friend that his age resembles late autumn. The second line of the initial quatrain refers to the winter season when birds freeze in chilly weather conditions.

The autumn and winter seasons refer to old age and death, respectively. Therefore, in the first quatrain, “yellow leaves” and “cold” are metaphors, which highlight the severity and bareness of adulthood and death. However, the bareness of death is established partially in this quatrain, and the author further narrates it in quatrain three.

In the first line of the second quatrain, “twilight” is a metaphor that emphasizes the gradual end of the speaker’s life. In the second line of this quatrain, “black night” refers to death that follows old age. In the last quatrain, the speaker compares his life to the luminous remains of fire lying on the vestiges of his childhood. In this quatrain, the speaker narrates how his life changes gradually from childhood to adulthood until he eventually dies. The speaker notes that during his childhood, love brightened his life.

However, his love faded during old age and eventually ended when he died. In this quatrain, the speaker informs his friend to love him deeply because he will eventually die. It is important to note that each quatrain discusses the theme of adulthood in a unique manner. In this sonnet, metaphors have been used consistently in the three quatrains to enable the addressee to visualize the impact of adulthood.


In general, the use of metaphors and the structure of the sonnet contribute to the development of the theme. Moreover, most of the images used in this sonnet were embodied and besieged by the link between the speaker’s childhood and death. Although the poet criticizes old age and death, he deeply expresses his admiration for his friend.

In this sonnet, Shakespeare has successfully expressed his apprehension about the effects of adulthood. There are many similarities between the images of this poem and those used in other sonnets. Therefore, it can be concluded that Shakespeare consistently uses images and symbolism in his poems.

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