Television: A Provocative Poet

john_donne_bbc_newsHe was born in London to members of a persecuted religious minority. A couple of his uncles were of a militant bent, and he was brought up, it was said, “with an expectation of martyrdom.” His life’s aim, however, was to insinuate himself into the heart of the establishment. And he succeeded. That may be a provocative introduction to the poet John Donne (pictured), but it’s no exaggeration. As a Catholic born in Elizabethan England, a quiet life was not an option. In Simon Schama’s “John Donne,” just broadcast in Britain and slated for American airing later this year, we learn that his brother Henry was arrested for harbouring a Jesuit at the age of 21, and died within weeks of his imprisonment. John, on the other hand, studied law, became a soldier and then an MP, before wrecking his future by secretly marrying against the wishes of an influential patron. Later, he converted to Anglicanism and died the Dean of St Paul’s. In his spare time he was, as Schama puts it, “the most electrifying poet in the English language”.

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