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Marlowe, Raleigh, Shakespeare, and Donne. The Poets and the Poems. The Life of Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). Christopher Marlow (1564-1593). Life Stats. Born—February 6, 1564 in Canterbury, England Baptized Catholic Eldest son of a shoemaker Lived during the same time as Shakespeare

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the life of christopher marlowe 1564 1593
The Life of




Christopher Marlow (1564-1593)
life stats
Life Stats

Born—February 6, 1564 in Canterbury, England

Baptized Catholic

Eldest son of a shoemaker

Lived during the same time as Shakespeare

English poet and dramatist

  • At 14 he started at King’s School
  • In 1581, Marlowe was granted a six-year scholarship to study at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, England
  • 1584—earned his B.A.
  • 1587—began his M.A.
  • The university was reluctant to grant the degree because they suspected that Marlowe was an atheist.
  • The queen’s Privy Council intervened and the degree was granted.
after university
After university
  • Did not join the clergy but went to London to write plays for The Admiral’s Men.
  • He is renowned for his elaborate style that influenced the tragic style used by his predecessors.
  • Considered by many to be the chief of dramatic form.
his death
His death
  • Died May 30, 1593 during a brawl at a tavern in Deptford, England. He was stabbed in the eye.
  • Some believe that he was a secret agent.
  • Some believed that he was involved with secret peace negotiations.
  • Some believe his quick temper and lawless past led to his demise.
  • His life and death are both mysterious but his early death provided a preface for Shakespeare’s fame.
the passionate shepherd to his love christopher marlowe
“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”Christopher Marlowe


Christopher Marlowe sets the poem in early spring in a rural locale (presumably in England) where shepherds tend their flocks. The use of the word madrigals (Line 8)–referring to poems set to music and sung by two to six voices with a single melody or interweaving melodies–suggests that the time is the 16th Century, when madrigals were highly popular in England and elsewhere in Europe. However, the poem could be about any shepherd of any age in any country, for such is the universality of its theme.

  • The Passionate Shepherd: He importunes a woman–presumably a young and pretty country girl–to become his sweetheart and enjoy with him all the pleasures that nature has to offer.
  • The Shepherd’s Love: The young woman who receives the Passionate Shepherd’s message.
  • Swains: Young country fellows whom the Passionate Shepherd promises will dance for his love.
type of work
Type of Work

“The Passionate Shepherd” is a pastoral poem. Pastoral poems generally center on the love of a shepherd for a maiden (as in Marlowe’s poem), on the death of a friend, or on the quiet simplicity of rural life. The writer of a pastoral poem may be an educated city dweller, like Marlowe, who extolls the virtues of a shepherd girl or longs for the peace and quiet of the country. Pastoral is derived from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd.


The theme of “The Passionate Shepherd” is the rapture of springtime love in a simple, rural setting. Implicit in this theme is the motif of carpe diem–Latin for “seize the day.” Carpe diem urges people to enjoy the moment without worrying about the future.

rhyme and meter
Rhyme and Meter

In each stanza, the first line rhymes with the second, and the third rhymes with the fourth. The meter is iambic tetrameter, with eight syllables (four iambic feet) per line. (An iambic foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.) The following graphic presentation illustrates the rhyme scheme and meter of Stanza 1:

Come LIVE.|.with ME.|.and BE.|.my LOVE,

And WE.|.will ALL.|.the PLEA.|.sures PROVE

That HILLS.|.and VALL.|.eys, DALE.|.and FIELD,

And ALL.|.the CRAG.|.gy MOUNT.|.ains YIELD.

the poem s enduring appeal
The Poem’s Enduring Appeal

Over the centuries, Marlowe’s little poem has enjoyed widespread popularity because it captures the joy of simple, uncomplicated, love. The shepherd does not worry whether his status makes him acceptable to the girl; nor does he appear concerned about money or education. The future will take carry of itself. What matters is the moment. So, he says, let us enjoy it–sitting on a rock listening to the birds.

  • Dales – valleys
  • Melodious – musical
  • Madrigals – a short, musical poem about love
  • Posies – flowers
  • Embroider’d – sewn
  • Swains – young boys from the country
analyzing and interpreting the poems
Analyzing and Interpreting the Poems
  • 1. a) What does the shepherd in Marlowe's poem offer his love to make his world sound attractive and desirable?

b) What things does he offer her that he cannot possibly provide?

  • 2. Notice that lines 19 and 20 at the end of the fifth stanza in Marlowe's poem almost repeat the poem's opening lines.

a) What effect is created by this near repetition?

b) Instead of ending with this refrain-like repetition, the shepherd goes on for another stanza. Does the promise of the final stanza add anything new to the promises made earlier? If so, what does it add?

additional questions
Additional Questions
  • 3. What, metaphorically, does the speaker want to prove in the first stanza?
  • 4. What is the purpose of the Shepherd’s poem?
  • 5. Why has Marlowe capitalized “Love” when he speaks to the young maiden in the poem?
sir walter raleigh
Sir Walter Raleigh

Born: October 1552 in Devon

Died: October 29, 1618 in London



Religion: Born to a prominent Protestant family

  • Writer
  • Poet
  • Soldier
  • Courtier: a person who attends the court (centre of government and residence) of the monarch
  • Explorer
  • Colonizer (founder of Virginia)
raleigh s life
Raleigh’s Life
  • Was similar to Marlowe in the sense that both men were reckless, free-thinkers who eventually came to violent ends.
  • Was noted for his charisma, wit, and womanizing
  • Was in and out of favour with Queen Elizabeth I.
raleigh s life1
Raleigh’s life . . .
  • Loved by the queen in the 1580s.
  • Was frequently at court.
  • The queen found out about his secret marriage to one of her maids of honor, Elizabeth Throckmorton, in 1592.
  • Raleigh was imprisoned in The Tower of London but regained her favour through military exploits and voyages to South America.
raleigh s life2
Raleigh’s Life . . .
  • His success came to a halt when James I, from Scotland, came to the throne in 1603.
  • James I accused Raleigh of plotting to bar his ascension to the throne and had him imprisoned until 1616.
  • Released to make one last voyage to South America to search for gold.
  • Voyage was a failure.
  • Raleigh’s men burned a Spanish settlement, Spain demanded he be arrested (James I was happy to carry out this demand), and Raleigh was executed for treason in 1618.
legend says
Legend says . . .
  • On the night before he died he wrote one of his best poems, “The Author’s Epitaph, Made by Himself.”
  • While on the scaffold, he smiled as he ran his finger along the ax and said, “This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases.”
legend also says
Legend also says . . .
  • In an obvious attempt to impress the queen, Raleigh laid his plush and expensive cloak over a mud puddle so the queen would not muddy her feet.
legend also says1
Legend also says . . .
  • Raleigh introduced and popularized the use of tobacco in Europe (this is fact, not legend).
  • Immediately before his death, Raleigh asked for one last smoke of tobacco.
  • His request was granted, and it is believed that this established the tradition of allowing prisoners one last cigarette before their execution.
  • Relatively straightforward and easily understood.
  • Often appears to express contempt for the world around him (as in the poems “What is Our Life” and “The Lie”).
  • Expresses sarcasm and satire at social flaws (as in the poem “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”).
the nymph s reply to the shepherd
“The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”
  • Written in response to Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.”
  • Speaker of the poem is not the author
  • Traditional pastoral mode—shepherds, idealized, and rustic landscape.
  • The nymph may be considered “anti-pastoral”—opposed to the perfection of nature.
  • Satirical mode—the nymph dismisses the shepherd’s romantic pleas because she does not see happiness in terms of material comfort . She also knows how quickly promises are broken.
marlowe s the passionate shepherd to his love and raleigh s the nymph s reply to the shepherd
Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"andRaleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"
  • It's important to note that the narrator is not necessarily the poet; Marlowe is no more the "Shepherd" from the first poem than Raleigh is the "Nymph" in the second.
  • Both poets are using traditional voices from pastoral literature which uses shepherds and an idealized rustic landscape to indirectly explore a range of ideas and themes.
analysis name the
Analysis: Name the…
  • Rhyme Scheme and Meter
  • Theme
  • Figures of Speech (find two)
analyzing and interpreting the poems1
Analyzing and Interpreting the Poems

"The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"

  • 1. a) What assumption made by Marlowe's shepherd does Raleigh's nymph begin by attacking?

b) How does she follow up this attack?

  • 2. As in Marlow's poem, lines 19 and 20 of the fifth stanza of Raleigh's poem sound like a summarizing refrain. Yet the nymph, like the shepherd, goes on for an additional stanza.

a) Why does this last stanza begin with "But?"

b) How are lines 19 and 20 transformed in lines 23 and 24.

c) Describe the change in attitude in the last stanza in the poem, and how it affects your evaluation of the nymph's reply.

william shakespeare 1564 1616
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  • Born in Stratford-on-Avon (a small town about 90 miles from London)on April 23, 1564.
  • Father was John Shakespeare, a glove maker. His mother, Mary Arden, came from a good family with considerable land and fortune.
  • Average student who focused mainly on Latin grammar but also on French later in London.
  • Traveling players came to Stratford; this was his introduction to drama.
marriage and children
Marriage and Children
  • Married Anne Hathaway, a woman 6 years older than him, at the age of 18 on November 27, 1592.
  • May 26, 1583, their first child, Susanna, was born.
  • February 2, 1585, they had twins, Hamnet and Judith.
  • 1587-1592 (The Lost Years) Shakespeare left his family (people believed he was running from the law) to go to London to earn fortune and fame.
  • It was believed that Anne did not join him because she was a Puritan (a Puritan being a religious fanatic who believed that the stage and actors corrupted people's morals). Puritanism was so strong in London that eventually all the theatres were closed.
poet playwright
Poet & Playwright
  • Joined a theatrical company (sponsored by Queen Elizabeth herself) and became a noted actor, playwright, and poet.
  • By 1592 he was an established actor but his money was earned by gate admissions, not from the sale of his plays.
  • Theatres were reopened in 1594 after closing temporarily during a plague epidemic.
  • After this, Shakespeare focused on writing plays. He wrote 37 by the time of his retirement in 1610. He wrote comedies, histories, tragedies, and many sonnets.
  • Throughout his career, he was a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later the King's Men) and worked closely with Richard Burbage.
death details
Death & Details
  • Dies on April 23, 1616, but was predeceased by his son, Hamnet.
  • Left his property to his daughter and his "second-best-bed" to his wife.
  • Remains unmatched as a writer because of his ability to understand the truths of the human condition and his skill of expression. Perfectly communicated profound, universal concepts in creative, lyrical language.
  • Introduced the concept of "Blank Verse" – there are 5 feet to a line and each foot is written in Iambic Pentameter.
  • Used other stylistic tools such as puns, metaphors, soliloquies, asides, similes, apostrophes, and personification.
why study shakespeare
Why Study Shakespeare?

The Reasons Behind Shakespeare's Influence and Popularity

Ben Jonson anticipated Shakespeare’s dazzling future when he declared, "He was not of an age, but for all time!" in the preface to the First Folio. While most people know that Shakespeare is, in fact, the most popular dramatist and poet the Western world has ever produced, students new to his work often wonder why this is so.

The following are the top four reasons why Shakespeare has stood the test of time.

1 illumination of the human experience
1) Illumination of the Human Experience

Shakespeare’s ability to summarize the range of human emotions in simple yet profoundly eloquent verse is perhaps the greatest reason for his enduring popularity. If you cannot find words to express how you feel about love or music or growing older, Shakespeare can speak for you. No author in the Western world has penned more beloved passages. Shakespeare's work is the reason John Bartlett compiled the first major book of familiar quotations.

here are some examples of shakespeare s most popular passages
Here are some examples of Shakespeare's most popular passages:

• The seven ages of man• Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?• We band of brothers• The green-eyed monster• What's in a name? • Now is the winter of our discontent• If music be the food of love• Beware the ides of March• We are such stuff as dreams are made on• Something is rotten in the state of Denmark• To be, or not to be: that is the question

2 great stories
2) Great Stories

Marchette Chute, in the Introduction to her famous retelling of Shakespeare’s stories, summarizes one of the reasons for Shakespeare’s immeasurable fame:

William Shakespeare was the most remarkable storyteller that the world has ever known. Homer told of adventure and men at war, Sophocles and Tolstoy told of tragedies and of people in trouble. Terence and Mark Twain told cosmic stories, Dickens told melodramatic ones, Plutarch told histories and Hand Christian Andersen told fairy tales. But Shakespeare told every kind of story – comedy, tragedy, history, melodrama, adventure, love stories and fairy tales – and each of them so well that they have become immortal. In all the world of storytelling he has become the greatest name. (Stories from Shakespeare, 11)

Shakespeare's stories transcend time and culture. Modern storytellers continue

to adapt Shakespeare’s tales to suit our modern world, whether it be the tale of

Lear on a farm in Iowa, Romeo and Juliet on the mean streets of New York City,

or Macbeth in feudal Japan.

3 compelling characters
3) Compelling Characters
  • Shakespeare invented his share of stock characters, but his truly great characters – particularly his tragic heroes – are unequalled in literature, dwarfing even the sublime creations of the Greek tragedians. Shakespeare’s great characters have remained popular because of their complexity; for example, we can see ourselves as gentle Hamlet, forced against his better nature to seek murderous revenge. For this reason Shakespeare is deeply admired by actors, and many consider playing a Shakespearean character to be the most difficult and most rewarding role possible.
4 ability to turn a phrase
4) Ability to Turn a Phrase
  • Many of the common expressions now thought to be clichés were Shakespeare's creations. Chances are you use Shakespeare's expressions all the time even though you may not know it is the Bard you are quoting. You may think that fact is "neither here nor there", but that's "the short and the long of it.“

***See Handout/Assignment***

shakespeare s sonnets
Shakespeare's Sonnets
  • Published in 1609 but most were written in the 1590s
  • 154 sonnets in total and suggest an elusive and mysterious "story“
  • Sonnets 1-126 are addressed mainly to a young man of great beauty and promise. The speaker expresses affection and admiration for the young man, urges him to marry and have children, and warns him about the destructive power of time, age, and moral weakness.
  • Sonnets 78-86 are concerned with a rival poet who has also addressed poems to the young man.
  • Sonnets 127-154 are addressed to a lady with dark hair, eyes and complexion. Both the speaker and the young man seem to be romantically involved with her.
sonnets continued
Sonnets continued…
  • There is no evidence to connect these sonnets with the facts of Shakespeare's own life though some speculate that they are auto-biographical in nature.
  • The situations and relationships suggested in the sonnets are a means through which Shakespeare explores universal questions about time and death, about beauty and moral integrity, about love and about poetry itself.
what is a sonnet
  • A lyric poem that is 14 lines long
  • Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnets are divided into two quatrains and a six-line sestet with a rhyme scheme of abbaabbacdecde (or cdcdcd)
  • English (or Shakesperian) sonnets are composed of three quatrains and a final couplet with a rhyme scheme of ababcdcdefefgg
  • English sonnets are generally written in Iambic Pentameter
sonnet 18 background
Sonnet 18 - Background
  • Sonnet 18 is the best known and most well-loved of all 154 sonnets. It is also one of the most straightforward in language and intent. The stability of love and its power to immortalize the poetry and the subject of that poetry is the theme.
  • The poet starts the praise of his dear friend without showiness, but he slowly builds the image of his friend into that of a perfect being. His friend is first compared to summer in the octave, but, at the start of the third quatrain, he is summer, and thus, he has metamorphosed into the standard by which true beauty can and should be judged.
sonnet 18 background1
Sonnet 18 - Background
  • The poet's only answer to such profound joy and beauty is to ensure that his friend be forever in human memory, saved from the oblivion that accompanies death. He achieves this through his verse, believing that, as history writes itself, his friend will become one with time. The final couplet reaffirms the poet's hope that as long as there is breath in mankind, his poetry too will live on, and ensure the immortality of his muse.
sonnet 18 questions
Sonnet 18 Questions

1. How does Shakespeare use language and metaphor to present the young man’s beauty in Sonnet 18?

2. What question does the poetic speaker ask himself in the opening lines of this sonnet? What does he ultimately decide about whether or not this comparison is a good one?

3. What are some of the problems with a summer's day that the poet discusses in the first eight lines? What does the poet mean when he says, "But thy eternal summer shall not fade"?

4. The poet also promises, "Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade." Does this seem possible or plausible as a promise?

5. The last two lines, however, limit the promise to "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." What does the "this" refer to? How does "this" continue to give this young man/woman life--even four hundred years after Shakespeare wrote the poem?

sonnet 29 background
Sonnet 29 - Background
  • Sonnet 29 shows the poet at his most insecure and troubled. He feels unlucky, shamed, and fiercely jealous of those around him. What causes the poet's anguish will remain a mystery; as will the answer to whether the sonnets are autobiographical.
  • However, an examination of Shakespeare’s life around the time he wrote Sonnet 29 reveals two traumatic events that may have shaped the theme of the sonnet.
sonnet 29 background1
Sonnet 29 - Background
  • In 1592 the London theatres closed due to a severe outbreak of plague. Although it is possible that Shakespeare toured the outlying areas of London, it is almost certain that he left the theatre entirely during this time to work on his sonnets and narrative poems. The closing of the playhouses made it hard for Shakespeare and other actors of the day to earn a living. With plague and poverty looming it is expected that he would feel "in disgrace with fortune" (1).
  • Moreover, in 1592 there came a scathing attack on Shakespeare by dramatist Robert Greene, who, in a deathbed diary, warned three of his fellow university-educated playwrights: "There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you; and, beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey."
sonnet 29 questions
Sonnet 29 Questions

1. In Sonnet 29, what two moods are contrasted?

2. What kind of men does the speaker say he envies?

3. What causes his change of mood in the last few lines of the poem?

4. Judging from the reference in lines 11-12, what would you say the lark symbolizes?

the 7 ages of man
The 7 Ages of Man

1. What, according to Shakespeare, are the acts in a man’s life?

2. What is Shakespeare’s concept of life?

3. Lines 152-153:

a) Name the stage in man’s life.

b) What is the figure of speech in the first line?

c) Why does the lover sigh?

4. Lines 155-157:

a) Who is referred to here?

b) What are the distinguishing features of the soldier?

the 7 ages of man1
The 7 Ages of Man

5. Lines 165 – 166:

a) In which act is the man playing this part?

b) What features of old age are mentioned here?

6. Lines 143-147:

a) What poetic device is used in these lines?

b) To what in man’s life does the poet compare the exits and entrances of the stage to?

c) Explain the phrase “one man in his time.”

7. Lines 149-151:

a) Which stage of human life is described in these lines?

b) What are the words or phrases which indicate that the boy is not willing to go to school?

the 7 ages of man2
The 7 Ages of Man

8. Lines 154 – 157:

a) Which stage of human life is described in the above lines? What are the main characteristics of this stage?

b) What is the “bubble reputation” and how is it linked with the cannon’s mouth?

9. Lines 157-161:

a) How does a man look in this stage of life?

b) What does he do to show his wisdom? Why?

10. How is the last stage of a man’s life described?

  • John Donne was born in London in 1572.
  • He was the son of a wealthy ironmonger. Unfortunately, his father died when he was only four years old.
  • John’s family was strongly Catholic, a cause of some conflict for the family because of anti-Catholic feelings in England.


  • As a Catholic in England, his birthright was persecution and rejection.

(Carey xix)

  • John was well educated by Jesuit priests as a boy.
  • He later attended Oxford University but was not granted a degree because of his refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy (that the King/Queen is the supreme head of the Church in England).
  • Donne later studied law.


poetic style
Poetic Style
  • While associated with the Inns of Court ( an institution that specialized in the study of law), Donne’s love lyrics and satires circulated among students.


  • The speaker of his love elegies is a swaggering nonconformist; he is a lewd yet intelligent seducer of women of the bourgeoisie out to take his pleasure and their fathers’ money.
  • The speaker of the satires is serious, responsible, moralistic and deplores vice and corruption; he is especially critical of courtiers and state officials seeking power and success by climbing England’s social ladder.

(Carey xx-xxi)

  • In 1593, his brother Henry died in prison.
  • He had been imprisoned for harbouring a Catholic priest.
  • It is speculated that this event may have lead to Donne’s questioning of his Catholic faith.


  • In his youth, Donne spent his money on womanizing, books, theatre and travel.
  • He joined naval expeditions against the Spanish in Spain and the Azores.
  • In 1601, at age 29, he became a member of Queen Elizabeth’s last parliament. (Jokinen)
  • His career suffered a set back, however, due to his secret marriage to Ann More, niece of Lady Egerton and daughter of Sir George More, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal.
  • He lost his job and was imprisoned for some weeks; because of the scandal, he would struggle financially for a decade while endeavoring to re-establish his reputation.
  • In his 40’s, Donne converted to Protestantism, thus winning the favour of King James I.
  • With the king’s encouragement, he took holy orders in 1615 and became the Royal Chaplain.
  • He was greatly admired for his preaching style which used elaborate metaphors and religious symbolism to great dramatic effect.


In 1617, when she was just 33 years old, his wife Ann died after giving birth to their 12th child. Unfortunately, the child was stillborn.
  • Many of his later poems would demonstrate an apprehension of death, especially as he struggled with his own illness.
  • His Holy Meditation #17 is a good example of this preoccupation with death. (Jokinen)

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."– John Donne, 1624, Meditation XVII

  • In 1621, Donne was appointed Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • Obsessed with the idea of death, Donne posed for a portrait in a shroud. The painting was completed a few weeks before his death and later used to create an effigy.
  • He preached what was called his own funeral sermon, “Death’s Duel”, just a few weeks before he died in London on March 31, 1631.
  • He was buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Donne's monument is the only one to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 and can still be seen today at St. Paul's. (Jokinen)
holy sonnets
Holy Sonnets

XVII.Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debtTo Nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,And her soul early into heaven ravishèd,Wholly on heavenly things my mind is set.Here the admiring her my mind did whetTo seek thee, God; so streams do show the head;But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed,A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yet.But why should I beg more love, whenas thouDost woo my soul, for hers offering all thine:And dost not only fear lest I allowMy love to saints and angels, things divine,But in thy tender jealousy dost doubtLest the world, flesh, yea, devil put thee out.

  • Thankfully, Donne left us powerful love poetry, divine poems and holy sonnets reflecting his religious struggles, and satires.


his style
His Style
  • His writing shows a mind that was restlessly energetic, highly individualistic, and essentially dramatic.
  • It challenges his readers’ minds to be as daring and agile as his own.
  • He began a trend in poetry: he was the original METAPHYSICAL POET (Abrams).
what are metaphysics
What are Metaphysics?
  • of Greek origins meaning “beyond” (meta) the “physical” (matter in Aristotle’s works).
  • is a branch of philosophy that investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science.
  • A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into what types of things there are in the world and what relations these things bear to one another.
  • The metaphysician also attempts to clarify the notions by which people understand the world, including existence, objecthood, property, space, time, causality, and possibility.
  • Before the development of modern science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as “natural philosophy“.
  • The scientific method, however, made natural philosophy an empirical and experimental activity unlike the rest of philosophy, and by the end of the eighteenth century it had begun to be called "science" to distinguish it from philosophy.
  • Thereafter, metaphysics became the philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.
the metaphysical poetic style content
The Metaphysical Poetic Style - Content
  • Metaphysical poets wrote both love poems and deeply religious devotional poems.
  • The poetry categorizes human love and more specifically, human romantic passion, as a Divine experience comparable to the Afterlife.
  • It is concerned with defining the entire human experience (love, romantic and sensual; man's relationship with God, and to a lesser extent pleasure, learning and art).
  • Metaphysical poetry is considered great because of its scathing wit, wordplay, and irony.
  • It is always meditative and lyrical in nature.
  • It often presents complicated arguments to confront life’s complications.


the metaphysical poetic style imagery and structure
The Metaphysical Poetic Style- Imagery and Structure
  • Uses elaborate, intellectualized images (often called “conceits”—a figure of speech where a parallel is drawn between two dissimilar things to create striking imagery).
  • Extensive use of paradox (a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth).
  • Multi-layered use of symbol and metaphor.
  • Rhythm and meter is irregular to reflect the irregular and unpredictable movements of an active mind and of an informal speaking voice.


holy sonnet death be not proud
Holy Sonnet “Death Be Not Proud”

Title and Publication Information

The poem first appeared as “Holy Sonnet X” in a collection of 19 sonnets by John Donne (1572-1631). However, its title came to be known as “Death, Be Not Proud” (after the first four words of the poem). It was written between 1601 and 1610—the exact year is uncertain—and published after Donne died.

Type of Work

“Death, Be Not Proud" is a sonnet (14-line poem) similar in format to that established in Italy by Petrarch (1304-1374), a Roman Catholic priest who popularized the sonnet form before it was adopted and modified in England. Petrarch's sonnets each consist of an eight-line stanza (octave) and a six-line stanza (sestet). The first stanza presents a theme, and the second stanza develops it.

donne assignment 30 marks total
Donne Assignment – 30 Marks Total
  • Theme
  • Rhyme Scheme
  • Meter
  • Figures of Speech
  • Questions
  • Personal View of the Poem
analysis 10 marks
Analysis – 10 Marks
  • Theme (3 Marks)
  • Rhyme Scheme and Meter (7 Marks)
  • Figures of Speech (name two) – reference the line(s) in which the figure of speech is found and explain. (2 marks each)
questions 5 marks
Questions – 5 Marks

1. Why does Donne consistently capitalize the word death?

(1 mark)

2. What is the tone in Donne’s poem? Defend your answer.

(2 marks)

3. Give an interpretation of the title of the poem.

(1 mark)

4. Why would the poet write “think’st” and “swell’st” instead of writing “thinkest” and “swellest”?

(1 mark)

summary what is this poem about
Summary – What is this poem about???
  • Complete a 1/3-1/2 page paragraph summary of the poem. (10 Marks)
  • Make at least 3 specific line references as evidence to support your claims.
  • Do NOT use the internet for this assignment.
analysis answers
Analysis Answers
  • Rhyme Scheme and Meter
  • The rhyme scheme of "Death, Be Not Proud" is as follows: ABBA, ABBA, CDDC, EE. The meter varies, although most lines are in iambic pentameter.

“Death Be Not Proud” is among the most famous and most beloved poems in English literature. Its popularity lies in its message of hope couched in eloquent, quotable language. Donne’s theme tells the reader that death has no right to be proud, since human beings do not die but live eternally after “one short sleep.” Although some people depict death as mighty and powerful, it is really a lowly slave that depends on luck, accidents, decrees, murder, disease, and war to put men to sleep. But a simple poppy (whose seeds provide a juice to make a narcotic) and various charms (incantations, amulets, spells, etc.) can also induce sleep—and do it better than death can. After a human being’s soul leaves the body and enters eternity, it lives on; only death dies.

figures of speech
Figures of Speech
  • To convey his message, Donne relies primarily on personification, a type of metaphor, that extends through the entire poem. (Such an extended metaphor is often called a conceit.) Thus, death becomes a person whom Donne addresses, using the second-person singular (implied or stated as thou, thee, and thy). Donne also uses alliteration, as the following lines illustrate:
  • Line 4: Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst though kill me
  • Line 6: Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow
  • Line 13: One short sleep past, we wake eternally (Note: One begins with a w sound; thus, it alliterates with we and wake.)
  • Donne ends the poem with paradox and irony: Death, thou shalt die.
works cited
Works Cited

Abrams, M.H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature.

New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987. Print.

Boldt, Danielle, Sarah Carlin, and Erin Maguire. "The Life of Christopher Marlowe." Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). LtWr 308 A, n.d. Web. 28 Mar 2010.<>.

Carey, John. Introduction. John Donne: A Critical Edition of the Major Works. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990. xix-xxxii. Print.

Jokinen, Anniina. "The Life of John Donne." Luminarium.22 June 2006. Web. 27 May 2010.    

Mabillard, Amanda. Why Study Shakespeare? Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (January 31st, 2011) < >.