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Death Be not Proud

             John Donne's Death Be Not Proud dramatizes the conflict between appearance and reality through the use of rhyme scheme, imagery, and language throughout the poem. He reveals the true nature of Death as opposed to the public perception of it. The speaker tells Death that it should not feel proud although some people have called it "mighty and dreadful" (2). Death is merely a short sleep and a gateway into eternal life where death will no longer exist. "Death, thou shalt die" (14).
             This sonnet is written in a combination Petrarchan/Shakespearean rhyme scheme. This convoluted and unusual rhyme scheme of abbaabbacddcae dramatizes the tension of the fear of death in the octave, sensationalizes the anger felt by the speaker in the quatrain, and hastily resolves it in the couplet. This unusual rhyme scheme also suggests that Death and the fear of it transcends countries. John Donne was raised a Catholic but became an Anglican priest. He uses a combination of rhyme schemes to show the religious connection between Catholicism and Anglicanism. Petrarch was Italian and was a devout Catholic. Shakespeare was English where the official religion was Anglican. The body of the poem is written in Petrarchan rhyme scheme while the final couplet is in Shakespearean form. This symbolizes his conversion to Anglicanism in the latter stages of his life. In the first quatrain the speaker explains how Death is not powerful. He uses awkward syntax in line three that reinforces the tension in the sonnet by forcing the reader to convolute his mind in order to understand the poem. This convoluting of syntax also expresses the meaning of this quatrain; that things are not always what they seem.
             In the second quatrain, the speaker attempts to alleviate the fear of dying. The speaker, obviously a very religious man, reasons that death must be a form of rest much more peaceful than sleep. However, he admits that he is not sure that sleep is even that peaceful and that he only pictures it to be that way.

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