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Sonnet 73

Sonnet 73


by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 73 Theme of Man and the Natural World

The first two quatrains of Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 feature extended metaphors comparing the speaker's situation in life to some aspect from the natural world, like autumn trees and darkening skies. The general idea is that the speaker's youth is behind him, that age is approaching, but that he still has some spark of life left. All that natural imagery really hammers home one of the central ideas of the poem—that oncoming death is relentless, inevitable, and, well… natural.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. The comparisons between nature and humans in Shakespeare's poem go in two directions: humans look more like nature, and nature looks more like humans.
  2. Why do you think Shakespeare chose to do things this way?
  3. Is the image of the fire in quatrain 3 an image from nature or from the human world? What difference does it make?
  4. Do nature images appear evenly throughout the poem, or do they tend to cluster in certain sections of it? What difference would it make? 
  5. Are you forgetting something, Mr. Shakespeare? Why is there no nature imagery in the couplet?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Because fire is something humans can control, the imagery in quatrain 3 isn't nature imagery in the same way that the imagery from quatrains 1 and 2 is.

There is no nature imagery in the couplet because Shakespeare wants to focus our attention there directly on human concerns.

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