Sonnet 73 develops the theme of aging and death through richly eloquent imagery condensed into a tightly packed form. The love between Shakespeare and his ward, to who the poem is dedicated, is closely demonstrated throughout the poem and finalised with the final epigram.
The sonnet can split into three quatrains with an ending rhyming couplet, with each line conforming to the pattern of iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme followed is that, which was introduced by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. It follows the following pattern; ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The quatrains serve to compact each of the images held within them as separate units. The quatrains make use of enjambed lines 'in me behold / when yellow leaves' and caesural pauses; ruin'd choirs, where late;'. This technique, of drawing out the images through the use of conjunctions, creates a sense of suspense, likened to the feeling of nearing death.
The imagery used within the sonnet is perhaps the most interesting aspect. Shakespeare uses a simile in the first quatrain. He likens himself to an aging tree, where the life of summer is closing and winter is fast approaching:
'When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon these boughs Ã¢ÂÂ¦ ' (lines 2 and 3)
Line 2 is an interesting example of how Shakespeare encourages us to focus on the aging process through disturbing the natural temporal progression.
In the second and third quatrains we see the use of metaphor, where 'Death's second self, seals upÃ¢ÂÂ¦' and 'the ashes of his youth doth lie'. The act of sealing up can be likened to sleep and also to the sealing up of a coffin. The poet's former youth is metaphorically described as a fire slowly dwindling away.
The tone and atmosphere created is one of melancholy acceptance. We...