Themes in Good Friday, 1613


The most obvious theme that emerges is Donne's sense of his own personal sinfulness and unworthiness. His failure to attend to his Good Friday devotions becomes a sign of that unworthiness. He has allowed Pharisee and publican in the templeother motivations before his love for God. Yet, ironically, the writing of the poem IS the devotion: what more could he have done if he had attended a worship service? This is the central irony we find in poems on this theme: that the poet's very sense of unworthiness IS a proof of his worthiness. This is a biblical principle. The sinner in the Temple is justified because of his humility while the (self-)righteous religious man is condemned (Luke 18:9-14). Of course ‘humility' can just be a pose: ‘look at me being unworthy!'

God's love and mercy

God's love and mercy is the other theme, suitable for an Easter meditation. The love is seen both in

  • the incarnation: ‘that fleshe which was worne/By God'
  • and in the redemption of the cross: ‘What a death were it then to see God dye?'
  • God's mercy is also shown in the way he deals with Donne. God does ‘thinke mee worth thine anger', just as a father thinks his child worth punishing.

Investigating Good Friday, 1613
  • ‘thinke mee worth thine anger'
    • What do you understand by the concept of someone being worth punishing?
    • Do you think Donne is posing?
    • How can we assess sincerity in poetry?
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