The Cycle of Life

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In Shakespeare’s (Sonnet 73) “That time of year thou mayst in me behold”, the focus is on the narrator’s anxiety of growing old and his impending death. Each quatrain expresses this in a distinctive way, associating the narrator's stage of life with a variety of analogies showing how time passes in nature. There is a marked reduction of time from seasons to days to minutes. As the length of time decreases, the speed in which the narrator approaches death increases. In the end, death is imminent and it is obvious to the narrator while becoming obvious to his audience and the reader. In the first quatrain (Q1), the narrator relates himself to the season of autumn transpiring quickly into winter, the time of year when the leaves of the trees change from green, to red and yellow and then begin to lose them. John Hurley explains Q1 as “a fine analogy, [of] a man in the winter of his life, clearly winter, for the leaves are few and those which remain are yellow”.(Hurley 1) The narrator is painting a portrait of himself as an old man, but a lover nonetheless. The fact that he is a lover is depicted by the use of a more intimate word thou rather than you in the opening line. As the narrator further paints himself as the leafless tree with shaking boughs that are now empty, but once held many singing birds, Shakespeare is making an intellectual appeal for the reader to see the narrator is in the winter of his life and that death is near. In quatrain two (Q2) the narrator shortens his time left from seasons to days. Being in the twilight of his life, the narrator is still facing death and still complaining "In me thou seest the twilight of such day / As after sunset fadeth in the west,".(lines 5-6) Once again there is an analogy between l... ... middle of paper ... ...hard). The order of images used, also dictated by “pathos”, ranges from the year, as depicted by the seasons; to the day, as shown by the sun setting; to the fire burning and reminding readers that aging and death are a part of life. The fact is that death is imminent as it relates to the end of all cycles: the dying year, the dying day, the dying fire, the dying human. This is emphasized and repeated in such a manner that the audience and the reader can easily perceive. Works Cited Frank, Berhard. "Shakespeare's Sonnet 73." The Explicator 62.1 (2003): 3+. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. Hurley, John. Shakespeare as Teacher. 1998. ERIC. EBSCO. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. Shakespeare, William. “That time of year thou mayst in me behold.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. 1344. Print

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