John Donne’s Use of Language to Convey the Death Theme in Death Be Not Proud

Categories: John Donne

Language is defined as, “the method of human communication, either spoken or written. consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way”( Death,be . During Not Proud by John Donne uses language to convey the theme that death should not be feared. During the renaissance, it was very common for one to fear death and its power. However, in this sonnet, Donne uses techniques such as tone, metaphors and personifications to elaborate on why one should not feel this way towards death.

By using this language, Donne, like many other writers of history, leads his readers into a further understanding of a specific topic.

Throughout the sonnet, Donne uses constant metaphors to support the conceit of death being sleep. The main metaphor used to support the conceit being, “Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,/ and dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,” (Donne 9-10). Donne states that death is a slave to outside forces and contains no real power of his own.

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This relates directly to the theme that death is not to be feared. By saying this, Donne explains that death should not be feared, because death has no control over when a person goes, rather it is outside forces that hold the true power. By using this literary technique, Donne explains his perspective of death versus that common of the Renaissance. The language used provides the reader with a better understanding of what the speaker is attempting to communicate.

The use of tone is present throughout the sonne.

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The tone being both confident and fearless. The speaker challenges the normal perception of death during the Renaissance. Many of which feared death or was very comfortable with it. The speaker on the other hand states, “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee/ Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;” (Donne 1-2). The speaker is telling death, as though it was a person, not to be proud that many fear you because you are not as scary as it may seem to many. This shows direct confrontation of the speaker on his feeling of death being a coward. This supports Donnes theme of death should not be feared because him his self is calling death out as being a “weakling”.

Personification is a technique often used by authors throughout time to give annamite objects or ideas realistic, human like characteristics. Donne personifies death throughout the sonnet as if it was a person rather than a state of life. The sonnet states, ¨And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die” (Donne 14). This is personification because death, being a state of life rather than a person, cannot itself actually die. By saying this, Donne is giving death person like qualities. This relates back to the theme that death should not be feared because by using personification, Donne challenges the idea of death saying that it itself can be killed. Thus, it should not be feared.

Language has been used throughout time as a technique to not only communicate, but move people as well, throughout the span of history. By using literary techniques, authors can communicate ideas and emotions to their readers in order to convey a certain message or perspective. John Donne uses metaphors, tone and personification to emphasize his theme that death should not be feared. His use of language throughout the sonnet moves the reader into believing other than that ordinary fear of death the many possed during the renaissance.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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John Donne’s Use of Language to Convey the Death Theme in Death Be Not Proud. (2024, Feb 08). Retrieved from

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