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The setting of Death the Leveller: This poem shifts between a number of settings. In the first stanza, we get a glimpse of kingly courts as well as of the fields of peasants.
In the second stanza, we are confronted with a battlefield. In the third stanza, we see an altar of human sacrifice as well as a graveyard. Each of these stanzas is again made up of 8 lines. Hence, the entire poem consists of 24 lines in total. There is nothing anyone can do to avoid the calling of Fate because man is destined to die. Death comes to kings as well as farmers. That is why, where they are buried, the vestments and weapons of the king are not superior in any way to farm implements.
However, in the end, their courage is nothing in the face of Fate. All warriors are overpowered by death and must surrender in defeat at some point of time. They may put up a fight, but in the end they will lose their vigour and move slowly towards the end of their lives.
One who has been a victor will also turn into a victim in their fight with Death. Ultimately, they must sacrifice themselves to this most powerful of deities in his own altar. In the end, they shall be buried under the earth. The poet here says that all men are made equal in death, and also that death is an absolute certainty for all men. Poor men die easily because they do not have too many resources. They may die of hunger. They may die because they cannot afford treatment for diseases.
Rich men do not have such worries. And yet rich men must also die. If not for anything else, they will certainly die of old age. Hence, death is not something that either rich or poor people can escape. Even great warriors must bow down before Fate because man is destined to die. These are the men who kill others in the battlefield and believe it is glorious to do so.
But there is no shortage of valiant fighters. One day the same men who had killed hundreds must themselves die. That is why it is said that to be born is to die. However, what we must keep in mind is that only the physical body of man is destroyed in death. If he has been just towards his fellow men, then his deeds will be remembered for centuries after his death.
Generations of his offspring will read about him in history books. Rhetorical devices: 1st stanza: Metaphor: This rhetorical device is used when a covert comparison is made between two different things or ideas. Personification: This rhetorical device is used to bestow human qualities on something that is not human. In this stanza, the poet uses the device of personification in line 3 with respect to Fate, and again in line 4 with respect to Death. Transferred epithet: This rhetorical device is used when an emotion is attributed to a non-living thing after being displaced from a person, most often the poet himself or herself.
Of course, it is not that they are actually financially unstable, but that the people who hold them cannot afford anything better.
Metaphor: In this stanza, the poet uses the device of metaphor in line 2 when he compares getting fame and glory with planting laurels. Central Idea of Death the Leveller: Men who are distinguished by class in life, are rendered equal in death.
Neither king nor farmer can escape the inevitability of death. Victors in battle must also lose to Death. The only aspect of human life that survives is his noble deeds. Themes of Death the Leveller: Dust thou art, to dust returnest: The Bible says that man has evolved out of the stuff of the earth, out of dust as it were. And ultimately, man must return to dust as well. That is, man must be buried in the very earth that gave birth to him. The route to immortality: The point that Shirley stresses again and again in this poem is that man is mortal.
Neither will individual men survive nor will the human as a species. Is man then to not leave any trace of his existence on earth?
He certainly is. This trace left by man will be in the form of his great deeds. However, there is a sense of poetic justice at the end of the first stanza when the poet shows how kings are farmers are made equal in death.
In the second stanza, the tone subtly changes from one of valiant victory in the battle to that of piteous surrender to Death. Written in Elizabethan times, it appeals just as much to modern and contemporary readers. That is because it does not offer us false optimism. It does not assert the greatness of man. Instead, it gives us a realistic picture of life and death, and only towards the end does it appeal to our emotional nature.
It captures the dilemma of human existence beautifully in fact. Share this: Twitter Facebook.
Summary and Analysis of Death the Leveller by James Shirley
Death will fall on a rich king and on a poor man equally. In the second stanza, the poet says that the success earned by great warriors by doing courageous works mean nothing before death. Even the strongest of conquerors one day kneel down and is defeated by the power of Death. Sooner or later, everyone dies. In the third stanza, the poet pictures death as a force that brings equality. Those who won and those who lose are made equal by Death because death is the ultimate equalizer. Every person goes to the grave in the end.
Death the Leveller
The setting of Death the Leveller: This poem shifts between a number of settings. In the first stanza, we get a glimpse of kingly courts as well as of the fields of peasants. In the second stanza, we are confronted with a battlefield. In the third stanza, we see an altar of human sacrifice as well as a graveyard. Each of these stanzas is again made up of 8 lines. Hence, the entire poem consists of 24 lines in total.
Death The Leveller
The poem Death the Leveller by James Shirley is structured into three stanzas with eight lines each. The understanding of the poem is fundamental in its allegation that death is a force that haunts all of what human beings do. This is repeated in a couple of places in the poem. It discusses the concept of artificial notions of success and victory. It also identifies the death that looms over us.