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Living To Die

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Shervin Tehrani-Rad

English 102

Living to Die

"Love is the emblem of eternity: it confounds all notion of time: effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end."

~ Germaine De Stael

In William Shakespeare's Sonnet #73 [That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold], the main theme of an approaching and inevitable death is applied. Moreover, this theme is being explained to a loved one in order for her to embrace and cherish her love for him while he still breathes. Beginning with the first quatrain, Shakespeare compares his age to that of autumn which stands for his advancement of years. Furthermore, in the second quatrain, Shakespeare elaborately compares his aging to a sunset, which is right before night, or in Shakespeare's case, death. In the final quatrain Shakespeare further compares his life to the life of a fire, which burns bright at the beginning but eventually dies out and turns to ashes. The point of the final couplet is to have the reader realize that the entire sonnet is written to his lover; in order to symbolize the way that Shakespeare feels that she views him in natural terms. Furthermore it shows the undying nature of love present between them, which cannot die along with his death.

In the first quatrain, Shakespeare metaphorically compares himself to a tree in the season of fall. The season of fall is symbolic because it represents a transition in time, right after spring and summer when life is full of energy, and right before winter when everything is dead and ceased to be. He goes on to say 'That time of year thou mayst in me behold when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang upon those boughs which shake against the cold"(579). Shakespeare uses conceit to elaborately compare his furtherance of age to the aging tree in the fall. Just as the tree is helpless and naked to the elements, Shakespeare is naked and helpless in the hands of time. Furthermore, Shakespeare portrays the fact that his death is inevitable.

In the second quatrain, Shakespeare seems to say death comes like night, dark and quiet, like a thief, stealing when we sleep. Moreover, the speaker compares his age to the late twilight, "As after sunset fadeth in the west," and the remaining light is slowly extinguished into the darkness. Meaning, death will come, without question. The sun setting could also be regarded as the sun going to sleep, which plays on the last line of the quatrain, "Death's second self, which seals upon rest." This line talks of the eternal sleep, or death. This quatrain suggests a night without the possibility of day, "seals upon rest."

Here sunset represents dying. The next metaphor compares night, which occurs after sunset, to death. Which by and by black night doth take away/ Death's second self that seals up all in rest (07-08).It is important to note that the author has changed his focus from aging, to dying, to death, and narrowed his scope to the close of one day (05).

In the third quatrain, He seems to compare his life to fire, burning bright in youth, when energy and ideas bound forth, but eventually it all turns to ashes, fragments of the passing youth, essentially death. He also makes implications of lying upon the ashes, his deathbed, of days gone by, days when he was young and full of energy. The fire proposes finality, the non-cyclical process that night and the seasons



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