Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 And 18: The Themes Of Love And Death

Categories: William Shakespeare

According to Meyer, “an extended metaphor is a sustained comparison in which part or all of a poem consists of a series of related metaphors” (Meyer 926). In William Shakespeare’s sonnet 73 “That time of the year thou mayst in me behold”, the speaker uses an extended metaphor to compare his aging to the end of the year. In sonnet 18, “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day,” the speaker uses extended metaphors, to question if he should compare his love for his beloved to a summer’s day.

In William Shakespeare’s sonnet 5, the speaker also uses an extended metaphor, but in this case to compare the human cycle to the different seasons. Within the different sonnets, Shakespeare uses extended metaphors to compare the natural cycles of life to the human cycle of life, as well as the human emotions. Within the article “Gentle Hours” by Elmen, Paul, he analyses the meaning of the sonnets and gives a deeper perspective of the author’s feelings and life experience.

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In “Non Shakespearean Sonnets” by C.l Barber, the author discusses how the sonnets do not always interpreted the right way, and how people often ignore the questions that the poems provide, creating a misconception in the actual meanings. Human life can be compared to the seasons in many ways; however, there are many important differences.

The human cycle and the seasons of the year are more similar to each other than what we can often perceive, the main difference being that human life finishes with death while the natural cycle of climate begins every year.

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The beginning line of Shakespeare’s “sonnet 18” the speaker beings the poem with a question “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day” (Meyer 467). The speaker repeats the question referring to his beloved. This question is very flattering and expresses a lot of beauty. Summer days tend to have a shiny sun and a slow refreshing breeze. Summer symbolizes youth, life and the beauty of nature. However, the speaker is reluctant to compare his beloved to a summer’s day. Although he states in first line that his beloved’s beauty is as delightful as a summer’s day, he uses a paradox to state that not even the beauty of nature can be compared to his beloved’s beauty. In the last quatrain the speakers refers to an eternal summer, “But thy eternal summer shall not fade” (Meyer 467). The speaker constantly criticizes the summers for being too short, that is why he is reluctant to compare his beloved to a summer’s day. Instead, he decides to compare his beloved to an eternal summer, to a beauty that will forever live, as long as men can see and breathe his beloved will always live, she will forever live in his verses.

The beginning line of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 73” (Meyer 550), the speaker tells his loved one that his aging is like a “time of the year”, which can relate to early winter. In this poem, the tenor would be the speaker and the vehicle are the different seasons of the year like nature. In the second sentence, the speaker compares himself to an aging tree in late autumn or early winter, trees in that time of the year lose their leaves completely or very few of them hang. This represents the harshness and difficulty of aging, this could represent the speaker starting to lose some hair. However, he does not state that his going through this degradation but that his lover may notices. The concluding lines of Shakespeare’s “sonnet 73”, mentions the problems Shakespeare is going through: “As the death-bed whereon it must expire/Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by”. The speaker compares himself to a fire that will eventually be consumed by the ashes that once gave strength, beauty and power. This represents how the speaker uses the elements of nature to compare to the cycle of a human’s life. This sonnet is a representation of the fear that Shakespeare is going through, how he is afraid of getting old and not having enough time.

According to Shakespeare, “Those hours that with gentle work did frame the lovely gaze...will play tyrants to the very same...and that unfair which fairly doth excel”. This lines state how the process of time that once made beauty ,will also be the one that destroys it ,making ugly what now is seemed as beautiful. In the article “Gentle Hours” (Elmen 2), he discusses how the simple word “Hours” could have several meanings. One of the meanings being Shakespeare’s fear of not having enough time, “There has been an agreement with J.Q Adams that the word hours actually means passing hours which is explained as never resting time in the fifth line of sonnet 5,” (Elmen 1). Shakespeare recognizes in the majority of his sonnets the beauty of nature and its seasons. He often compares it to the beauty of his beloved, but also criticizes it for being too short.

As stated by Barber, “Many readers have been put off by the biographical questions and the amount of unsatisfactory answers about Shakespeare’s sonnets,” (Barber 1). Shakespeare sonnets are beautiful, and they have a tendency of leaving the reader with intriguing questions. The sonnets are the closest evidence to know more about Shakespeare’s life was. Although they have many opinions from analyst around the world, we cannot be to certain about the poems being actually based on Shakespeare’s life, after all society was very different to the one we live back in the 17 century. “The Poems are not discussed as poems but as evidence insufficient evidence, “(Barber3). Readers that care about poetry react to this tendency by ignoring all of this questions on what others claim to be Shakespeare’s personal life

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 And 18: The Themes Of Love And Death. (2024, Feb 12). Retrieved from

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