Study Guide

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10) Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

By John Donne

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

The big dream and hope in the poem is to defeat Death and go to Heaven. The speaker is confident that his faith in God won’t let him down, but that’s the thing about faith: it doesn’t come with a guarantee. Unfortunately, the speaker doesn’t have a lot of other options. He must die, no matter what. Although he states the final assertion – "Death, thou shalt die" – as if it’s a fact of life (like gravity), it’s really an expression of hope for the unknown future.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

  1. How does the poem prepare for the dramatic statement: "Death, thou shalt die?"
  2. Does the speaker seem a wee bit cocky about his chances of "waking" eternally? Is his cockiness justified?
  3. Do you agree with the reasoning behind his claim that "much more" pleasure will "flow" from death than flows from sleep?
  4. How does the speaker know that the people whom Death thinks that he "overthrows" don’t actually "die" in the long run? How much of his argument is based on sheer faith or blind hope? All of it?

Chew on This

The speaker’s fear of death betrays his uncertainty about whether his faith is enough to enter eternal bliss.

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