Who could the speaker be in "Death Be Not Proud" by John Donne?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" is narrated by an anonymous first person speaker. The speaker uses the personal pronoun "me." The first person plural is actually more common, occurring three times in the poem (us, our, we). What this suggests is that Donne is not trying to create a strongly individuated speaker, as would be the case in a poem emphasizing individual psychology, but rather has the speaker stand in for all or any human. The lack of individuation makes readers focus on the discussion of death as something universal and think about it within a religious context.

Although there is no clear textual evidence for the speaker having any defining characteristics other than being human (we are not informed of gender, social position, marital status, etc.), one could argue that the speaker is probably middle aged or old, as one is more likely to contemplate death as one ages and experiences the death of friends and relatives and confronts one's own mortality. 

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