Metaphysical Poetry Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students are going to learn about metaphysical poetry, as well as a few notable poets. They will explore this through analysis of a poem, as well as creative writing.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define the characteristics and objectives of metaphysical poetry
  • Identify key traits of the styles of several metaphysical poets
  • Analyze a metaphysical poem and present that information in an academic setting


120-180 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).


By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.


  • Copies of Lesson Quiz, one for each student
  • Copies of metaphysical poems, focusing on works of Donne, Marvell, and Herbert


  • Begin class with a discussion of poetry in its various forms.
    • What defines a poem? What are some different kinds of poetry? How is each characterized?
  • Begin video lesson Metaphysical Poetry: Definition, Characteristics & Examples. Pause at 2:08 and discuss this information as a class:
    • What is metaphysical poetry? Define this in your own words.
    • How do the goals of metaphysical poetry seem to be different than those of other forms of poetry? What makes this metaphysical?
    • What do we know about British history in the 17th century? What sorts of issues were British metaphysical poets dealing with in their lives?
  • Resume video, and pause at 3:37 to discuss:
    • What are some of the definitive characteristics of metaphysical poetry?
    • Define the concepts of paradox, conceit, and pun. What do each of these terms mean? How are they similar, and how are they different? Why do you think metaphysical poets try to use these together? What is the effect?
  • Resume and complete video. Discuss this information as a class:
    • What defined the styles and objectives of Donne, Herbert, and Marvell? How was each unique, and in what ways were they all similar?
    • What sorts of issues did these poets seem to be dealing with? How did they deal with them?
  • You may test student understanding with Lesson Quiz. Review answers as a class.

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