Shakespeare's Sonnets

From Autumn to Ash: Shakespeare's Sonnet 73

The swelling energy and particularization of imagery of season, time, and light both complement and counter the speaker's fading body in Shakespeare's Sonnet 73. Moving from metaphors of abstract bleakness to those of specific vitality and passion within and across each quatrain, Shakespeare's sonnet draws on the paradox of his decaying body that houses a still-breathing soul to fashion yet another parallel metaphor, that of his relationship with his youthful lover.

The first quatrain examines the sonnet's most general metaphoric description of the speaker's aging body, Autumn. Shakespeare fails to specify even what season he is referring to in the opening line; it is known only as "That time of the year thou mayst in me behold" (1). That "me" comes after "thou" and near the end of the line also signifies the lack of detail the speaker places on himself in the first quatrain. In the second and third quatrains this is inverted, as "In me thou seest" becomes a more insistent and refined initiation (5, 9). Shakespeare continues the conceit of subject refinement as he first describes Autumn's "yellow leaves" as simply existing, then concedes there may be...

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