Comparison of Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 and Sonnet 116

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Comparison of Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 and Sonnet 116

William Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 73 and Sonnet 116, sets forth his

vision of the unchanging, persistent and immovable nature of true love.

According to Shakespeare, love is truly "till death do us part," and possibly

beyond. Physical infirmity, the ravages of age, or even one's partner's

inconstancy have no effect upon the affections of one who sincerely loves. His

notion of love is not a romantic one in which an idealized vision of a lover is

embraced. Instead he recognizes the weaknesses to which we, as humans, are

subject, but still asserts that love conquers all.

Shakespeare uses an array of figurative language to convey his message,

including metaphor and personification. Thus, in sonnet 73, he compares himself

to a grove of trees in early winter, "When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do

hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,..." These lines seem to

refer to an aged, balding man, bundled unsuccessfully against the weather.

Perhaps, in a larger sense, they refer to that time in our lives when our

faculties are diminished and we can no longer easily withstand the normal blows

of life. He regards his body as a temple- a "Bare ruined choir[s]"- where sweet

birds used to sing, but it is a body now going to ruin.

In Sonnet 116, love is seen as the North Star, the fixed point of

guidance to ships lost upon the endless sea of the world. It is the point of

reference and repose in this stormy, troubled world, "an ever-fixed mark That

looks on tempests and is never shaken;..."

He personifies the coming of the end of his life as night, which is

described as "Death's second self" in sonnet 73. However, in Sonnet 116 death

appears in the guise of the grim reaper, Father Time, who mows down all of our

youth, but still cannot conquer love- "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips

and cheeks within his bending sickle's compass come;..."

While both poems make use of figurative language, sonnet 73 uses far

more imagery than sonnet 116. Sonnet 73 uses the image of the close of man's

life as a wintry grove with the few remaining leaves shivering in the cold.

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