Death, be not proud by John Donne

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In "Death, be not proud," how do paradox and personification contribute to the sense of a victory over death?  

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"Death, be not proud" by John Donne is among his Holy Sonnets and should be read in the context of Christian theology concerning death. In this context, human death and mortality are consequences of original sin. Our death, however, is only physical. Within Donne's theological tradition, the human soul is immortal, and will, after the Last Judgement, be given eternal joy in Heaven or eternal torment in Hell. The Apocalypse and Last Judgement mark an end to human mortality, and thus the "death" of death; after this point, all humans shall exist as immortal souls in a purely spiritual realm and...

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Since Donne devoutly believed in the expectation of the Christian Resurrection, his poem personifies death as an adversary swollen with false pride and unworthy of being called "mighty and dreadful."  This poem is one of his "Holy Sonnets," in which Donne sees Death as mere adversary and God as vanquisher. In "Death be not proud" the poet accuses death of being little more than a slave bossed around by "fate, chance, kings and desperate men"—a craven thing that keeps bad company, such as "poison, war, and sickness." Finally Donne taunts death with a paradox: "death, thou shalt die."

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