Death, Be Not Proud by John Donne

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In John Donne’s sonnet “Death, Be Not Proud” death is closely examined and Donne writes about his views on death and his belief that people should not live in fear of death, but embrace it. “Death, Be Not Proud” is a Shakespearean sonnet that consists of three quatrains and one concluding couplet, of which I individually analyzed each quatrain and the couplet to elucidate Donne’s arguments with death. Donne converses with death, and argues that death is not the universal destroyer of life. He elaborates on the conflict with death in each quatrain through the use of imagery, figurative language, and structure. These elements not only increase the power of Donne’s message, but also symbolize the meaning of hope of eternal life as the ultimate escape to death.

The first quatrain of the poem begins undermining the idea of death by personifying it. Death is personified by Donne throughout the poem as he challenges death by stating that it is not the “mighty and dreadful” aspect of life that people are afraid of, but as an escape from life where people can find peace after death because “nor yet canst thou kill me” (Donne 1100). He argues that death does not really kill those whom it thinks it kills to further beat death into humility. In the opening line of the poem he uses an apostrophe, “Death, be not proud..” to begin with a dramatic tone to argue with death as people’s adversary (Donne 1100). Death is given negative human traits, such as pride, but also inferiority and pretense.

Donne’s second quatrain uses figurative language to elaborate on his concept of victory over death. He contrasts death to “rest and sleep” by saying that they are mirrors of death (Donne 1100). Sleep and death are allied and one is the image of the oth...

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...death in itself dies.

John Donne will not accept death as the finale, his religious conviction supports in the belief of eternal life proceeding death. Throughout the poem Donne’s main purpose was the personification of death, his use of figurative language gave death humanistic characteristics and made death vulnerable and unintimidating. The structure of three quatrains and a couplet for the poem allowed for easier understanding of the context because the layout and rhyme scheme helped the poem flow and also revealed the tones. The imagery of death described by Donne breaks down death’s pride and bravado, as well as shine an encouraging light past the process of dying, on to the hope of delivery to eternal life. Each element played a significant role in the interpretation of the paradox of the poem, that ultimately death is not the universal destroyer of life.
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