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A Flea as a Marriage Bed

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Introduction

"A Flea as a Marriage Bed" In the poem "The Flea", by John Donne, the speaker uses a peculiar analogy in order to persuade his beloved to engage in premarital intercourse with him. The poem is composed of three stanzas that tell a story in chronological order about a flea that has sucked the blood of the two subjects. It tells the reader how the speaker attempts to persuade his beloved not to kill the flea because it is their marriage bed and then tells of how the woman still kills the flea but how the speaker uses that to take his argument one step further and explain how since it is so easy and guilt-free to kill the flea, the same could be said of her going to bed with the him. The structure of this poem alternates metrically. It starts with lines in iambic tetrameter and then changes to lines in iambic pentameter and each stanza ends with two pentameter lines. The rhyme scheme in each stanza is in couplets, with the final line rhyming with the last couplet. Since this poem was written in the 1600's, the words and grammar reflect that time period. The author is still direct in the way he chooses to word each line and is not using metaphors to illustrate a point since the whole poem itself is an analogy of a flea representing a union between the speaker and his beloved. ...read more.

Middle

Here he is asking his beloved to spare the life of the flea because it represents their marriage bed or the place where their blood first mixed and they became intertwined on a different level even though she and her parents do not wish this to happen. The flea becomes a vessel in which they are united and have become more than simply married and if she kills the flea, she kills that union and special bond. He then writes, "Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that, self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three"(16-18). Here he is saying if she kills the flea, she will be killing him, herself, and their union and not just committing one sin, but three which is clearly far worse than simply killing a pesky flea. The third and final stanza dictates that the woman has indeed killed the flea, "Cruel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence"(19-20) and he asks why she felt the flea was guilty enough to die, "Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it sucked from thee"(21-22). The author sees no reason for his beloved to have killed to innocent flea, but by killing the flea the woman has squashed his argument in hopes probably of shutting him up since he has no flea to compare their union to. ...read more.

Conclusion

The flea is a creature most people would not give a second thought to, but John Donne turns the unlikely species into a rather compelling argument to drive his point home. He did all of this without ever specifically referring to intercourse or sex which makes the poem even more clever and humorous. Even when his beloved kills the flea, when she essentially squashes and denies his argument, the author still continues with his analogy by referencing the fact that since she feels no pity or remorse for killing the flea, she will also feel no pity or remorse by engaging in premarital intercourse with him. It seems as though the author loses the first battle, but wins the war in the end, which always makes for an interesting story and tale. This poem is effective in laying out the author's argument for getting what he wants from his beloved. It is well organized into three brief stanzas that clearly indicate what is happening in each situation and how he explains his point. Although the author has a clear lack of respect for the wishes and feelings of the woman and her parents, he does make a compelling argument for himself on the simple analogy of a flea as their union and marriage bed. It is clever, witty, and unique in content, yet is written in a common, understandable metric language and basic, clear structure which makes for a pleasant, easy, and fun read. ...read more.

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