Biography And Introduction: Death the Leveller

James Shirley

He (or sherley) (September 1596 – October 1666) was an English Playwright.
He belonged to the great period of English dramatic literature, but, In lamp’s words, he “claims a place among the worthies of this period, not so much for any transcendent genius in himself, as that he was the last of a great race, all of whom spoke nearly the same language and a set of moral feelings and nations in common. His playwriting career spanned from 1625 until the suppression of stage plays by Parliament in 1642.

Death the leveller

The poem was written during the reign of Cromwell when the puritans closed theatres and all places of ‘sinful player’. Rigid class divisions in society were strengthened and life became short and dangerous. The tone is defiant as the poet rejects these anequalities and denies The importance of the earthly deeds of men.
The theme of the poem is Justice in Death. The title is significant as Death will level or settle all scores – it is inescapable. Everyone is equal in death; even Kings great warriors have to die.

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