Let’s Begin Our Discussion of Donne with a Cinematic Hook

This is a great scene from the movie, Wit. Though the scene stands on its own and inspires a re-reading of Donne’s Death Be Not Proud, Holy Sonnet X, you can learn more about the rest of the movie here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wit_(film)

Before our discussion in class, please view this clip as a way to inspire a re-reading of Death Be Not Proud. Then, sometime before class, decide upon the most artful poetic tool that Donne employs to create his metaphysical insight about life, death, and eternal life. Compose a 3-5 sentence “comment” in Standard English to start our class discussion online.

With Semicolon: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173363

Without Semicolon: http://www.potw.org/archive/potw83.html

About Bill Sullivan

I am an English teacher working with great students at Suffield Academy. I also teach seniors in various project-based learning environments. Some of the #PBL topics included global issues, such as Pandemics, Climate Change, and Water; more recently I have asked students to research and identify topics important to our school community and their generation. We curate these topics with a #StudentCenteredPBL. For the past eleven years, I also created a driving question for a class to research a local history mystery and present their findings in a community program partnering with our local historical society. These topics encompass researching the lives of enslaved individuals who were contributors to the foundation of our community.
This entry was posted in 21st Century Learning, AP Mindset, Disposition of a Critical Thinker, English III Honors, Twitter. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Let’s Begin Our Discussion of Donne with a Cinematic Hook

  1. nickvar says:

    The most artful and meaningful poetic tool used by Donne in his “Holy Sonnet” is the personification of death. In the sonnet, Death is given characteristics of a person such as being referred to as “thee.” This “thee” signifies that Death is not just a concept or idea, but rather a person that will eventually come to take us all one day. No person will be able to escape death’s grasp, therefore death is a definite thing in every person’s life. This is the message that Donne is trying to send through his personification of death in his “Holy Sonnet.”

  2. rishi527 says:

    I think that the most artful poetic employed by John Donne is the paradox of death. For example, in the last line of the sonnet, Donne wrote, “Death, thou shalt die.” This paradox shows how the speaker thinks that if death is defeated and destroyed, eternal life would be possible as there would be nothing to kill life. Donne also employs this paradox to illustrate how life has more power than death and how death is not “mighty and dreadful.”

  3. bsullivan35 says:

    Interesting start. Good work!

  4. Zoey Zheng says:

    I think the most artistic poetic element applied is comparison. John Donne drew many connections between death and some usually unrelated elements such as charmes, poppies king or fate. Such connections and comparisons show that death is not as mysterious as people may think or horrifying. He indicated that if death is just a common element of our casual life, then it can be defeated by other power such as thinking or spirit.

  5. Jenna Polidoro says:

    As suggested by the excerpt from the film, I believe the most artful and meaningful poetic element employed by Donne is punctuation. There are no harsh exclamation points used in the poem allowing it to be read smoothly in a similar fashion to how life becomes life everlasting. This idea is seen in the last line of then poem in which death separates life from eternal life by a brief pause (a comma). I agree with what the teacher says in the film that this punctuation mark is one of the most important in the entire poem in order to convey the original meaning Donne envisioned.

  6. Milan Ghosh says:

    The most artful poetic tool by Donne is his diction and the connotation of the words he chooses. The speaker tells Death it is not “mighty and dreadful”, two words which suggest a tyrant or dictator. In fact, the speaker tells Death it is a “slave,” suggesting the very opposite. Also, the speaker relates Death to “sleep,” suggesting it is very calm and peaceful.

  7. juhir1617 says:

    The most artful poetic tool that Donne uses is punctuation, as the film suggests. Every time a death occurs in the poem, there is a period. This symbolizes the end of a life as it literally ends the sentence. The comma and the semicolon in the last two lines contribute to the existence of life and death. The comma adds a pause between two ideas; that life is eternal, and that life must end because of death. The semicolon is like the last breath of life before the poem dies.

  8. katerookey says:

    I think that the symbolism of death is an important poetic device because Donne is using it as a way to tell people not to be afraid of death. This is shown when he says “mighty and dreadful, thou art not so” this line expresses that death is not something to fear because according to Donne there is life after death. This symbolism also expresses that people have power over death meaning that “poison, war, and sickness” are manmade things that can kill people.

  9. beans2300 says:

    The most creative tool in this poem is the personification. Throughout this entire poem, death is being personified in various lines. The poem starts off with capitalizing the D in death which gives turns it into a pronoun. From then on, it describes death as not being proud which is a feeling that gives it human like traits. In the last line, He addresses Death using the word thou. Using the word thou makes it more personal.

  10. Hattie Bauchiero says:

    The most artful poetic tool that Donne uses in his poem is his usage of metaphors. Each sentence has a deeper meaning than the words that appear on the line. In the line, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally”, Donne compares death to being a mere short sleep, in which we will wake up again in good eternity. Death usually is associated with never waking up and being gone forever, while Donne compares death to being a light sleep that you wake up from for eternity. Through other uses of metaphors, Donne continues to demonstrate how Death is not as powerful as people make it to be, and that it is not as bad either.

  11. mshlafstein says:

    Donne’s personification of death throughout his poem, is truly shows the reader his insight about the lack of power that death has. By creating death as a person, Donne tries to show the reader that death is not “Mighty and dreadful.” Donne’s constant taunting of death such as when he says, “Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,” compares death to a slave, further proves his argument that death has less power than many people believe. Through personifying death, Donne is able to persuade the reader to no longer be afraid of death.

  12. leximnich says:

    I agree with Max and Bailey that the personification of death throughout this poem is very important in Donne’s creation of his insight about life, death, and eternal life. Many people in the world today are scared of the idea of death and what is going to happen in their “afterlife,” but Donne’s personification eases the idea of death and makes it seem like scary than it is made out to be. Without the use of personification in his sonnet, Donne would not have been able to get his point across as strongly because his insight would not have been as relatable to the reader and therefore would not make as big of an impact. Therefore, because Donne is able to personify death and identify with the reader, he is able to display his insight that death is not as big of a deal as most people believe it to be.

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