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Sonnet comparison: Shakespeare and Donne

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Introduction

Poetry Coursework 'Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day ?' and 'Death be not proud' are both poems written in sonnet form, written by William Shakespeare and John Donne respectively. They share common themes and have dinstinct similarities, yet are also strikingly different. One of the most obvious differences is that 'Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day ?' (hereafter known as poem 1) is written in the Shakespearean format, with its Shakespearean rhyme scheme being ABABCDCDEFEFGG, and 'Death be not proud' (hereafter known as poem 2) is written in the petrarchan format, its rhyme scheme being ABBAABBACDDCEE. Both sonnets are written as if the poet is talking to the object itself (as 'thee' is used throughout both poems - the 2nd person address is used) ; in the first Shakespeare is adressing a lover and in the second Donne is talking to death directly. In poem 2 Shakespeare is comparing his love for Summer to the love for his admiree, showing that however much he enjoys the feelings and changes in the ...read more.

Middle

The repeated use of death as a person (calling death 'he') rather than a concept, and attributing various characteristics to death's 'personality' (e.g. desire, jealousy, pleasure) help the audience to identify with death and allow death to be personified in such a way so as to make the poem understood very deeply. In the next quartrain he is teasing death, saying that death isn't such a bad thing, as rest and sleep (which people enjoy) are snapshots of death ; death on a lesser level - therefore by that logic death would in fact be very pleasurable. He goes on to say that even though death eventually takes away our loved ones ('best men'), it is in fact doing them a kind turn as their death gives their body rest and frees their soul. In the following four lines Donne appears to be pitying death, claiming that he is no more than a slave to circumstance - kings (who put others to death) ...read more.

Conclusion

this poem) - you will live forever. Here we see a contrast between light and darkness (the light being the summer and the darkness being the 'shade'), and life vs. death. This is shown as Shakespeare explains that in his writings his friend shall be immortalised, therefore defying death. This is replicated strongly in 'Death be not proud', as Donne hints to the afterlife, 'One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally', also showing that people can dodge death and that dying can in fact be a pleasure, not a tragedy. In conclusion, I feel that both sonnets are linked by a positive, optimistic, encouraging message portrayed by the respective poets, each of them feeling that what they can achieve in this lifetime must be able to go beyond the physical, mundane, material world. Shakespeare hopes that his love for his friend will be preserved in his writings and Donne visits various emotions while talking to Death, eventually deciding that it is man who can eventually triumph over death and come out on top, not the other way around. ?? ?? ?? ?? Michael Bodansky 11LB ...read more.

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