Essay about The Death of Creative Power in Sonnet 73

Essay about The Death of Creative Power in Sonnet 73

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The Death of Creative Power in Sonnet 73           

Most of the 127 sonnets Shakespeare wrote to one of his close male friends are united by the theme of the overwhelming, destructive power of time, and the counterbalancing power of love and poetry to create and preserve beauty. Sonnet 73 is no different, but it does present an intriguing twist on this theme. Most of these sonnets address the youth and beauty of his male friend, as well as poetry's power to immortalize them, but number 73 addresses the author's own mortality and the friend's love for him. Also, subtly woven into this turning inward is a lament that the creative vitality represented by the poems themselves is fading away, along with Shakespeare's own life. Shakespeare seems to mourn most not his own mortality, but the fact that the creation of his love poems must itself one day cease, and this is a "death" more keenly felt by Shakespeare than mere mortality.

As usual, the sonnet breaks into four convenient sections, the three quatrains and the ending couplet. Each segment presents a new image to drive the point home.The first quatrain begins "thou mayst in me behold," then the second "In me thou seest," and the third also "In me thou seest" again. This repetition lends unity to the theme, and helps convey ideas from one segment to the next. What follows in each stanza is a new image of decay and death. The sequence and relationship of these metaphors shows a conscious effort at continuity, showing the death of the creative power in various guises.

The first quatrain uses one of the oldest metaphors for approaching age and imminent death there is, the coming of autumn. A couple of inventive images make th...


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...shed" this whole sequence of songs is not just the fire of love, but the fire of the immortalizing power which is creative genius. Shakespeare is writing about the ashes of his own creative "burnout"&emdash;his knowledge that one day he will write no more poems. One day the sweet birds will no longer sing, the creative sun will set and rest.

Yet the last two lines remind us that love will survive even that catastropohe. When he tells his friend that he is "strong/ To love that well, which thou must leave ere long" (13, 14), the antecedent for "that" isn't just Shakespeare himself. Shakespeare is also praising his friend for a love so strong that it will outlive even the one death which strikes Shakespeare himself most to his heart&emdash;the "death" of the poetic sequence which has lifted their friendship to the level of immortalized poetic figures.

 

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