John Donne Questions and Answers

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According to the speaker of “Holy Sonnet 10,” why should Death not be proud? Explain at least three reasons that the speaker states or implies.

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  • First of all, Death—note the capital D, which indicates personification—has no reason to be proud, as he isn't anywhere near as scary ("mighty and dreadful") as he thinks he is. Straight away, we're told in no uncertain terms that the speaker regards Death as a total impostor, behind whose imposing facade there is nothing and therefore nothing to be afraid of.
  • Then the speaker goes on to compare Death to "rest and sleep." By describing him like this, the speaker is attempting once more to make him seem like the big, un-scary nothing he really is. After all, what could more pleasant and unthreatening than rest and sleep? Here Donne presents death nothing more than a brief rest from the various troubles of life before the real business of eternal life gets underway.
  • And finally, Death has no reason to be proud as the same condition which he brings—sleep—can just as easily be procured by medicine ("poppy or charms" can do the job just as well, thank you very much). So we don't really need Death after all. It's nothing more than a little sleep before we are resurrected by God on the Day of Judgment. Then, so long as we're not unrepentant sinners, we will spend eternity with the Almighty. This will represent God's final victory over Death and Death shall be dead once and for all.

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