The sonnet as miniature drama

Donne’s Holy Sonnet ‘Oh my black Soule’

in William Shakespeare and John Donne
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In this chapter, one of the Holy Sonnets, ‘Oh my black Soule’, is analysed in detail against the background of its dramatic elements. These mainly consist in allusions and references to medieval morality plays such as Everyman, allegory and personification. Allegorical elements relate to colour symbolism and the change of colours that occurs in the sestet. The latter have sources in medieval drama as much as in the Bible. The pun in the final couplet on ‘dy(e)ing’ shows links to Prudentius’ Peristephanon Liber as much as to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; it refers to both the death of Christ that saves humankind and to the physicality and personification of the soul: death can be overcome in spite of sin, and the speaker is reassured of his redemption.

William Shakespeare and John Donne

Stages of the soul in early modern English poetry



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