When Was Sonnet 73 Written?

by Amy

In the realm of English literature, the sonnet stands as a timeless poetic form characterized by its precise structure and thematic depth. Typically composed of 14 lines, a sonnet adheres to specific rhyme schemes and meter, making it a favored vehicle for poets to explore profound emotions and ideas. Among the most celebrated practitioners of the sonnet form is William Shakespeare, whose collection of 154 sonnets has endured centuries as a testament to his poetic genius and keen insight into the human condition. So, when was sonnet 73 written?

Contextual Background

William Shakespeare lived and wrote during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, spanning the late 16th and early 17th centuries in England. This era marked a flourishing of literature, drama, and arts, with Shakespeare emerging as a central figure in the cultural landscape of the time. Born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s career as a playwright and poet flourished in London, where he became associated with the renowned theatrical company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men.

Publication Date and Collection

Shakespeare’s sonnets were likely composed over a period of time, with the entire sequence first published in 1609 under the title “Shake-speares Sonnets.” This publication included a dedication to a “Mr. W.H.” and consisted of 154 sonnets, each intricately crafted to explore themes of love, beauty, time, and mortality. Sonnet 73, one of the most cherished within the collection, appears early on and has captivated readers with its poignant reflections on the passage of time and the inevitability of aging.

Analysis of Sonnet 73

Sonnet 73 opens with a melancholic meditation on the speaker’s advancing age and impending mortality, employing vivid imagery to convey the passage of time. The sonnet progresses through three quatrains, each exploring different metaphors for aging: the autumnal season, the twilight of day, and the dying embers of a fire. These images evoke a sense of transience and loss, juxtaposed with the enduring power of love and memory.

The first quatrain begins with the speaker comparing himself to the “yellow leaves” of autumn, symbolizing the inevitable decline and fading beauty. The second quatrain likens the speaker to the twilight of the day, where darkness gradually overtakes the light, signaling the approach of death. In the final quatrain, the image of glowing embers represents the last flickers of life and warmth before extinguishment.

Throughout Sonnet 73, Shakespeare utilizes iambic pentameter and a structured rhyme scheme (ABABCDCDEFEFGG) to enhance the poem’s musicality and rhythm. The careful arrangement of words and imagery contributes to the sonnet’s emotional impact, capturing the universal experience of mortality and the yearning for eternal significance.

See also: What Is Shakespeare Sonnet 18 About?

Literary Significance

Sonnet 73 has garnered widespread acclaim for its eloquence and profundity, resonating with readers across generations. Critics and scholars have interpreted the sonnet in various ways, appreciating its exploration of themes such as the fleeting nature of life, the power of love to defy time, and the enduring legacy of art. Its enduring popularity underscores its place in the canon of English literature, inspiring countless adaptations, analyses, and references in popular culture.


Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare stands as a testament to the poet’s mastery of form and language, encapsulating timeless themes with grace and depth. Through its exploration of aging and mortality, the sonnet invites readers to contemplate the passage of time and the enduring power of love and memory. By understanding the historical context, thematic exploration, and literary techniques employed in Sonnet 73, readers can fully appreciate Shakespeare’s profound insights into the human experience and his enduring legacy in the world of poetry.

FAQs about Sonnet 73

1. What is the main message of sonnet 73?

Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare explores the theme of aging and the passage of time. The speaker reflects on his own mortality and uses vivid imagery to convey the stages of life’s inevitable decline. Through metaphors of autumn, twilight, and dying embers, Shakespeare poignantly portrays the beauty and frailty of human existence. Ultimately, the sonnet emphasizes the fleeting nature of life and the enduring power of love and memory.

2. What time of year is it in Sonnet 73?

Sonnet 73 evokes the imagery of autumn, specifically the time when “yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang” on the branches. This imagery suggests that it is late autumn or early winter, a season traditionally associated with decay, change, and the approach of winter’s cold. The use of autumnal imagery underscores the theme of aging and the inevitable decline of life.

3. Is sonnet 73 a love poem?

Sonnet 73 is not a conventional love poem in the traditional sense of celebrating romantic love or desire. Instead, it explores the theme of love in a broader context, touching upon the speaker’s contemplation of mortality and the importance of love and memory in the face of inevitable aging and death. The sonnet’s focus is more on the profound emotions evoked by the passage of time rather than on romantic relationships.

4. When did William Shakespeare write the sonnet?

William Shakespeare likely composed Sonnet 73 in the early 1600s during the Elizabethan or Jacobean period in England. The exact date of its composition is not known, but it was published along with the rest of Shakespeare’s sonnets in 1609 in a collection titled “Shake-speares Sonnets.” This publication marked the first appearance of these 154 sonnets, which have since become renowned for their exploration of themes such as love, beauty, time, and mortality.

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