Life, a Short Comedy
In Sir Walter Ralegh's, "What is our life?" the speaker begins with a question to work towards the goal of determining what our life truly is (Perrine and Arp). Ralegh utilizes an extended metaphor to compare the entire poem to a play, "What is our life? A play of passion"(1), and sums up our life into two stages, the beginning and the end.
The speaker demonstrates the beginning and the end of life through an extended metaphor. Use of warm diction such as "passion", "music", comedy" and "mirth" portray the beginning of ones life as meaningful and content. The speaker chooses a warm tone to prove that goodness and glee are at the beginning of one's life, and not at the end. The speaker compares the joyous changes that take place from infancy until adulthood as "our mirth the music of division"(2). This comparison describes growing up and the changes one goes through, as scene changes in a play, in effort to prove that our life merely represents the joyful beginning and distressing end to a play. A tone shift occurs halfway through the poem when the speaker commences to discuss the end of a person's life. The tone changes from delightful to more dark diction such as "sharp", "amiss", "graves", and "done", while the speaker enunciates the comparison between the end of life to the end of a play. The speaker does this to verify the end of life to be morose and close to the "drawn curtains when the play is done"(8). Thus, Ralegh's goal to summarize a person's life as a play has been fulfilled through this extended metaphor.
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