Death Be Not Proud By John Donne

1329 Words6 Pages
The progression of societal beliefs regarding our approach towards death is dependent upon the changing nature of both cultural and historical contexts. In Donne’s Holy Sonnet ‘Death be not proud’ he uses second person narration to address “Death” as “thou”, “thee” and “thy”, death is not considered conceptually but anthropomorphised as the poems fundamental pride. In ‘Death be not proud’, we see how the rumination of death is shaped by Elizabethan values. Through the subverted Petrarchan structure and style, Donne’s use of apostrophe denigrates the omnipotence of death and lowers its statue to the level of the poet. This corresponds with contextual religious values of certainty in external afterlife and death as a transitory stage. This…show more content…
Vivian’s reversion to the punctuation, “Death – semicolon – thou shalt die,” is symbolic of the 1990s literature culture wars, as Edson argues that a personal interpretation of the text is crucial to understanding its virtues. This is seen as Donne’s religious context only saw a mere pause, “comma,” between life and eternal life, whereas, modern existential beliefs see this transition as more potent and vivid, “semicolon.” This uncertainty can be seen through the final stage directions, “the instant she is naked and beautiful, reaching for the light,” which symbolises purity, peacefulness and hope. Therefore, we see the modern context produce an uncertain, yet uplifting approach to death. Donne’s poem, ‘The Sunne Rising,’ expounds how his view of life is shaped by relationships. We see this as the poet defies the natural order by apostrophising the Sun, “Busie old foole.” In Donne’s context, the Sun was seen as the centre of the natural world and the source of energy and life. Donne’s irritated, jesting tone denounces the Sun’s power when compared with his lover. This is seen through the metaphorical description, “This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere,” which extrapolates the apotheosistic nature of his relationship, and is
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