Theme of DEATH - Death be not Proud - John Donne


"Poets approach death in fear" In light on this statement, show how poets explore the theme of death.  

In 'Death be not Proud', the speaker presents death as a weak human limitation.

anthropomorphizing death to undermine it's power and present it as weak, showing confidence rather than fear on the surface 

  • "death be not proud" - opening direct address, daring, against 'fear' in statement, use of apostrophe (impossible reply) 

  • "poor death" sarcastic and confident on the surface  

  • "mighty and dreadful", "overthrow"  

  • his confidence reflected in the poems from, which is a mix of Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet 

further personification/conceit to present Death as powerless 

  • "slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men" - slave, weak, controlled by higher forces - further insulted with connection to "sickness", "poison", "war" who are also personified as worthless individual. No mention of god, strikingly non-religious for a holy sonnet, suggests that there is no room for god in a world of fate


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