Death the Leveller: NBSE class 10 poem summary and answers

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Get here the summary and solutions of the chapter Death the Leveller of NBSE Class 10 English. However, the given notes and solutions should only be used as references and should be mmodified or changedaccording to needs.


Death the Leveller by James Shirley is a reminder to the readers that death is one day going to take everyone. In the first stanza, the poet says that every achievement that a person can achieve in his life is temporary and there is nothing that one can do to protect him/her from death. 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. The last two lines say that if there is anything that is going to last after a person has died, it is the good work that he does while he is alive and people remember them for those good work.

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Textual questions and answers


1. The sentence that best summarises the poem is that 

A. death is inevitable B. death only comes to the unhealthy C. death is temporary D. death is permanent sleep 

Answer: A. death is inevitable 

2. ‘Sceptre and crown’ and ‘scythe and spade’ in the poem depict 

A. kings and workers B. symbols of hard work C. equality in society D. equality in death 

Answer: D. equality in death 

3. The only thing that outlives death is 

A. fragrance of blossoms B. good actions C. murmuring breath D. laurels gained through war 

Answer: B. good actions 

4. Death is called the leveller because 

A. death raises the poor to the level of the rich B. death is the biggest equaliser C. death does not discriminate D. all of us face death helplessly 

Answer: C. death does not discriminate 

5. An antonym for ‘leveller’ is 

A. moderate B. elitist C. disequilibrium D. equalizer 

Answer: B. elitist

Reference to the context

1. The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:

a) Why does the poet say that the glories are shadows?
b) Explain the significance of the line ‘Death lays his icy hand on kings’.
c) Does death lay his hands only on kings?
d) What is the figure of speech used in this line?

Ans: a) By glories and shadows, the poet wants to send the message that no matter how great our achievements are, in the end, or at death, nothing matters. The glories mean nothing.

b) The significance of the line is that death discriminates none and doesn’t leave out even kings. In death everybody is equal. Wealth, religion, caste, class, etc. mean nothing to death.

c) No, death doesn’t lay his hands only on kings. Death befalls everyone equally regardless of being a king or a pauper.

d) The figure of speech used in this line is a metaphor. In this line, death is personified as a living entity with icy cold hands that makes everyone equal when he touches them.

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Think and Answer

1. Does the title of the poem give an indication of the theme of the poem? Discuss.

Ans: The title “death the leveller” is significant. In the poem, the poet tries to convey the message that death is the ultimate equaliser. It equalizes the difference between the rich and the poor and fills the gap between the victor and the victim. All are equal before death and no one is Immortal. The poem says that death is inevitable. A person cannot be spared by death on the basis of his high birth or high status. Even the great warriors who defeated others and earned names and fame, cannot defeat death. They become captive in the hands of death and creep to tombs. Thus, death is a great leveller.

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Extra MCQs

1. “Death The Leveller” by James Shirley suggest

A. Victory in battle B. Wealth accumulation C. Death and equality D. Eternal glory 

Answer: C. Death and equality 

2. ……. cannot protect against fate 

A. Strength and bravery B. The glories of blood and state C. Wealth and possessions D. Armour 

Answer: D. Armour 

3. Imagery Shirley used to depict the equality brought by death 

A. A blooming garden B. Sceptre and Crown falling C. A shining armour D. A high mountain 

Answer: B. Sceptre and Crown falling 

4. Metaphor used to describe the eventual downfall of kings and rulers 

A. A crumbling castle B. Falling leaves C. Tumbling down of Sceptre and Crown D. A setting sun 

Answer: C. Tumbling down of Sceptre and Crown 

5. Shirley imply about the efforts to avoid death

A. They are ultimately successful B. They can extend life indefinitely C. They are futile D. They make death easier 

Answer: C. They are futile 

6. How does “Death The Leveller” portray the impact of death on human glory and achievements? 

A. Enhances their value B. Preserves them forever C. Renders them meaningless D. Transforms them into legends 

Answer: C. Renders them meaningless 

7. According to the poem, what remains of the just after death? 

A. Their wealth and treasures B. The memory of their deeds C. Their influence on others D. The sweet smell and blossom of their actions 

Answer: D. The sweet smell and blossom of their actions 

Extra Questions and Answers

1. What metaphor does the poem use to compare the inevitability of death for all people? 

Answer: The poem employs a powerful metaphor that likens death to a great equalizer, a force that renders all human distinctions moot. It suggests that death, indifferent to one’s social standing or accomplishments, levels the playing field between the powerful and the powerless. This metaphor is woven throughout the poem, illustrating how the inevitability of death unifies all, disregarding the achievements or possessions that people often use to differentiate themselves from others. 

2. How does the poem describe the effect of death on symbols of power like the sceptre and crown? 

Answer: Through vivid imagery, the poem articulates that death diminishes the value of traditional symbols of power, such as sceptres and crowns. These emblems, which in life signify authority and dominion, lose their significance and are metaphorically laid low alongside the tools of the commoner. This stark imagery serves to underline the message that in death, the symbols of earthly power hold no sway, emphasizing the futility of such temporal power. 

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13. Which stands in the poem “Death the Leveller” do you like the best? Why?

Answer: I like the last stanza the most because it spreads the message of nobility. The poet says in these two lines that the noble deeds of a person remain immortal and a person survives even after his death. Death can destroy everything but it becomes powerless before the noble actions of a person.

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