The death of Donne

Alison Shell

in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199218608
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

The death of Donne

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)



This article looks at the death of Donne and the status of English poetry thereafter. The early modern era can be thought of as one of pervasive honesty about death, in contrast to our own times. It was certainly one in which intensive preparation for death bulked largely in the life of anyone who took the Christian faith seriously, and where the ideal of the bona mors, or good death, directed moral discourse at every intellectual level. Texts and physical artefacts alike can be placed under the heading of the memento mori, a call to remember the inevitability of death. Just as the dance of death proverbially united all degrees of society, so the memento mori contained a universal message; and this article examines how Donne used his consciousness of mortality and his own deathbed to forge bonds with family, friends, and mankind in general.

Keywords: English poetry; John Donne; Christian faith; intellectual level; memento mori

Article.  5325 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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