This short poem I think deals with the endless subject of death and dying. Donne uses this poem to voice his view that death is not something to be feared as it oftentimes is. He points out the weaknesses of death and, with a triumphant and positive tone, expresses his victory over it by means of his lack of respect and fear for its implications. Donne belittles death by commenting on its strong dependence on humanity. He goes on to describe it as a transition, which does not serve as an end but instead, a new awakening to an eternal afterlife. .
Donne effectively uses tone in "Death, be not proud" to strengthen the poem's theme. The work has a tone of confidence and defiance in the face of death. Donne bravely criticizes death, making it clear that he is not overwhelmed by the fear of it as others often are. In lines 1-2, he says, "Death, be not proud, though some have called thee, Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so". In other words, although many may believe death to be dreadful, he feels this is not so. In line 9, Donne sees death as being dependent on mankind for its survival calling it "slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men" . Death relies on fate, unfortunate occurrences, the legislation of kings, and the actions of desperate men to claim its victims. This dependence in itself is a weakness, in that death is not self-supporting, yet relies on certain aspects of the lives of people. .
Donne's final comment comes in the poem's final lines where he portrays death as nothing more than a transition into an eternally vast afterlife. In lines 13-14, Donne says, "After one short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall no more; Death, thou shalt die". Death is a short sleep from which we wake forever. It is nothing to fear in this situation. And, in this afterlife, death no longer exists or poses a threat; death itself dies. .
All of these examples of Donne's use of tone greatly enhance the poem's theme that man is superior to death.