;Sonnet Analysis;

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Last updated: March 7, 2019

Several different types of Sonnets exist, and their themes are as varied as their rhyme schemes. For example, Shakespearian Sonnets have a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg and are often written about love, beauty, and immortality. However, “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne and “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” by John Milton are both Petrarchan or Italian Sonnets about death. Not only are their rhyme scheme and theme similar, but they also share other similarities, which are discussed below.In the first four lines (or quatrain) of ” Death Be Not Proud,” John Donne defies death.

According to Donne, death is neither mighty nor dreadful, and cannot overthrow him or anyone else (Donne). He also says people do not die, and explains why in lines five through eight. In these lines Donne describes death as sleep and rest. Because sleep and rest energize and revitalize people, death must be a pleasure. In addition, while a man’s bones rest, his soul is delivered (Donne). In lines nine through 12, Donne states that death is a slave and only dwells with sickness, poison, and war.

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Furthermore, death should not be proud, because charms or poppie can also put people to sleep. As a result, death has no special power (Donne). Finally, in lines 13 and 14, he ends by saying that after one short sleep, people are eternally awake, and only death is dead (Donne).

In summary, John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” is a Sonnet of strength, confidence, and fearlessness in the eyes of death.In John Milton’s Sonnet entitled “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent,” light refers to a person’s life. This Sonnet has a religious theme, unlike John Donne’s poem, and is also not as fearless. For example, in lines five and six, the author worries about whether his Maker will punish him for the way he spent his life. Additionally, line seven asks whether God demands daily labor, as if the narrator is concerned about the answer “Sonnet Analysis”  and whether he will be punished for his lack of work (Milton). However, the poem does include some hope, as in lines nine through 11, which state that God does not need man’s gifts or works.

Instead, the people who bear what He requires of them, and bear it well, will be rewarded by Him (Milton). Finally, Milton’s Sonnet is more fearful than Donne’s, because Donne does not answer to a higher power and has neither good nor bad to look forward to. In fact, he does not mention any specific after-life or consequences; he only says people will live eternally after a short sleep (Donne).

Milton, however, seems concerned with his eternal destiny and thus ponders whether God will favor him.In conclusion, it is interesting to note how two different poets can write a Sonnet with the same theme, but with varying outlooks. Whereas Donne mocks death, Milton fears it and its consequences–which could be an eternity in Hell.

Milton’s Sonnet does contain hopeful lines for those who bear God’s yoke well, but Donne’s is more universal. Not everyone believes in either Heaven or Hell, or any after-life at all. However, everyone can consider what Donne says about death being a slave and, ultimately, being the only one that will die.

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