Death, be not proud by John Donne

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What literary techniques does John Donne use in his sonnet that begins "Death, be not proud"?

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From the first line of the sonnet forward, Donne employs apostrophe, the technique of directly addressing an abstract idea; in this case, it is death itself the speaker speaks to. The opening line is an imperative sentence, as the speaker tells death, "be not..."

For the form, Donne chose the Elizabethan sonnet, comprised of three quatrains (four-line stanzas) with a concluding couplet, but he has altered the rhyme scheme to that of a Petrarchan sonnet, with the rhyme scheme ABBA in the poem's first two quatrains. The concluding couplet is not rhymed, which is customary in an Elizabethan sonnet. Donne further alters the sonnet form by placing the volta at the end of the poem, where his speaker declares, "Death, thou shalt die." Voltas are usuallly placed at the ninth line to signal a turn, but here, Donne delays it, likely to emphasize the dramatic impact of the final, paradoxical statement.

Donne also employs anastrophe, or inverted word order, such as in the line "our best men with thee do go," to accommodate his arrangement of emphasis, rhyme, and meter.

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Examples of the literary techniques used by John Donne in his sonnet beginning “Death, be not proud” include the following:

Line 1: Personification, in the reference to death as “Death.”  Irony and paradox, in addressing death as if it were a living thing. Enjambment, because of the lack of punctuation at the end of the line (a technique also used elsewhere in the poem).

Line 2: Metrical emphasis, as in the following departure from regular iambic rhythm: “Mighty and dreadful.” Normally, in iambic meter, the odd syllables are unaccented and the even syllables are accented. Thus, the first four syllables of this line, if they had been written in iambic rhythm, would look like this: unstressed, stressed, unstressed, stressed. Instead, Donne accentuates the first four syllables as follows: stressed ,...

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