Death the Leveller

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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/solutions should only be used for references and should be modified/changed according to needs.

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SUMMARY: 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.

Read the lines from the poem and answer the questions that follow:

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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B. 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 questions and answers

1. How does the poem remind the readers of the futility of taking pride in anyone’s birth and state? Why does the poet feel so?

Ans: The poet reminds the readers that taking pride in one’s birth or state is insignificant and these are like shadows that remain till the person is alive. He adds that when death comes, death really does not care about these things.
The poet feels so because there is no armour against fate. He says that every mighty king and his staff have to come to dust and death lays his icy hands on every man irrespective of caste, creed, status etc.

2. What are the two classes of people that the poet talks about in the second last stanza? What does he want them about?

Ans: The two classes of people that the poet talks about in the second last stanza are the victor and the victim. He warns them that they would not be spared by death and both of them will bleed on the purple altar of death.

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

Ans: 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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