Critical Analysis of Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare Sonnet 73 | Critical Analysis

Shakespeare Sonnet 73 Analysis

Sonnets are invariably personal. Intense subjectivity is found to form a key character in sonnet-writing. Regarding the personal character of Shakespeare’s sonnets, especially sonnet 73, there is no doubt, a host of controversies, yet their subjective notes are neither ignorable nor disputable. In some of them, Shakespeare’s personal moods and feelings are remarkably intense and intimate.

The sonnet 73 is a specific instance to testify to the intense subjectivity of the Shakespearean sonnet. It is particularly marked with the poet’s personal moods as also his ideals of life and love. It belongs to the group of sonnets in which the poet gives out much of his personal mood of depression and melancholy caused by various factors.

The theme of the sonnet is tender and touching. The poet here anticipates the time when he will have physical decay and decline leading to his death. In a gloomy and pensive mood, he anticipates how the ravages of time will mark him and doom him in his age which is to come in no time. But this depressing thought of the poet is lightened by his firm faith in the consolatory and restorative power of love. The poet rises above his mental depression and despondency, as he realizes that the love of his friend will grow stronger with the gradual decay of his body. The poem, thus, presents along with the poet’s personal despondency in his age, his ardent faith in the restorative effect of love

The poem, as noted already, has a profoundly personal touch and this has made it particularly appealing. The poet’s mood of depression here is supposed to be an echo of his utter frustration of life at the time to which the sonnet belongs. Whatever that may be, a stark but sincere tone of pessimism dominates the poem. The poet is haunted with a deep sense of inevitable decay and death. His tone appears intimate to his heart.

But, as noted, dire pessimism is not the only aspect of the theme of the poem. The poet’s outlook here rather bears antithetical elements, and his pessimism is counter-balanced by his optimistic idealization of love. He feels quite confident of the greater love of his friend with the steady decline of his health. He asserts that his friend will be led to love him more because he will pass away ere long-“To love that well, which thou must leave ere long”. This is the characteristic Shakespearean faith in the power of love, heard in many of his sonnets.

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What, however, specifically characterises the poem is the poet’s imagery-particularly his nature imagery. He is found to draw here a number of graphic images to describe his anticipated physical decay. In the first place, he compares himself to the bare ‘boughs’ which ‘shake against the cold’, and on which ‘late the sweet birds sang. He also brings in the metaphor of ‘ruined choirs’ to indicate the ruin of his heart in utter loneliness in the time to come. The poet also likens himself to the ‘twilight’ that “fadeth in the West’ after sunset. He precisely develops the imagery of ‘black night’ to have the analogy of death which is to come soon upon him. All that he harps on is nothing but total despondency that time has brought upon him.

The poet’s third analogy is the dying hearth that occasionally gives out sparks. Like the fire that is consumed by the ashes of the log which originally made it the poet thinks himself to be consumed in his own youthful restlessness. All such images are aptly and happily drawn and bear out Shakespeare’s craftsmanship as a word delineator.

The poem is technically a finished work and well characterises Shakespeare’s genius in the realm of sonnet-writing. As a Shakespearean sonnet, it is divided, as usual, into four parts–three quatrains and a concluding couplet. In the quatrains, the poets anticipations of his decay and death are presented through various images and reflections. Each quatrain forms a link in the chain of the poet’s thought that has a smooth and apt development through images, independent yet co-related. In the concluding couplet, the poet sums up his faith in love, as a restorative and enduring force in life. This follows from his reflections in the quatrains.

Sonnet 73, like other Shakespearean sonnets, has a simple and felicitous diction, and an easy and melodious versification. There are altogether seven rhymes, as opposed to the five of the normal Petrarchan sonnets, This is, as usual, written in iambic pentameter. The structural organization here, as in elsewhere, consists of four parts three quatrains and a concluding couplet.

In short, the sonnet 73 is a grand specimen of the Shakespearean sonnets, stamped with his profound subjectivity and powerful artistry. It is one of his famous sonnets, intimately personal and marvelously poetical.

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