From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)


by John Donne

Death's Friends and Masters

Symbol Analysis

Death hangs out with a bad crowd, like the kids who hang out behind the bleachers and try to talk you into vandalizing things on Halloween. Unfortunately, they aren’t cool at all. They’re big losers, in fact, and Death knows it – which is why it’s such an insult when the speaker points out Death’s connection to poison, war, and sickness. And, that’s not all. Death – this big strong guy – isn’t even his own master! All these other people tell him what to do. It’s like when you learn that the bully who torments you at school actually has his own bullies in the next grade up. It may not prevent your daily beatings, but it makes you feel a whole lot better about it.

  • Line 9: This metaphor calls Death a "slave" to "fate, chance, kings, and desperate men." Implicitly, all these things are personified as Death’s master.
  • Line 10: Although it’s not as obvious as in other parts of the poem, we think "poison, war, and sickness" are personified as thugs, or worthless individuals.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...