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Analysis of 'The Flea'

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Introduction

ANALYSIS OF 'THE FLEA' 'The Flea' is a rather unconventional love poem written by John Donne in the 1590's. The situation, in which we find the poem, is that of a man (Mr. Donne), addressing a woman (believed to be his lover). His purpose: trying to persuade her to come to bed with him. The poem incorporates an extended metaphor of a flea, which holds both his and his lover's blood, as an argument for them to enjoy a physical side to their love. The concept of using a flea as a poem's main theme was fashionable among poets of the time. European poets, such as Lopez de Vega, used this in some of his poems. This idea stemmed from an event that happened in a literary salon. This salon was run by two ladies, and on one occasion, a flea happened to land upon one lady's breast. The poets were amazed at the creature's audacity, and were inspired to write poetry about this animal. Here, there is no reference to the intellectual dimension to their relationship as with one of Donne's other poems - 'The Ecstasy' - but it is perhaps implied, given that they indeed have had a relationship without sex up until this point. ...read more.

Middle

In this stanza he is asking his partner to consider how insignificant these acts are in terms of the flea, and how small a thing sex is for her to withhold from him: "How little that which thou deny'st me is". The second stanza sees Donne, or his persona, being yet more insistent. The suggestion is that sex would not only be a minor thing, were she to allow it, but a significant thing if they were to deny themselves it - for the flea, he argues, is themselves and destroying it would be to destroy their relationship. This verse also plays on a religious theme of unrequited, almost convent-like chastity, with language such as "marriage temple", "sacrilege", "cloistered", "jet", (like a rosary) and bringing in the idea of parental disapproval - "parents grudge". Because his lover is unwilling to sleep with Donne due to her religious background, by using this language, he is assuring her that what he wants to do is in no way wrong. The last line reads "three sins in killing three". ...read more.

Conclusion

"cruel and sudden"). 'The Flea' is composed of rhyming couplets, which are not closed, and an additional line that rhymes at the end of each stanza. The lack of full stops at the end of the couplets mean that contrasting full stops at the end of the each stanza create a sense of finality, separating the argument into three very distinct sections. The stanzas are made more distinct still by the series of three instead of two rhymes at the end of each one. This serves to emphasise the idea of a 'threesome' consisting of Donne, his lover and the flea, which in turn unites them. In conclusion, this is first and foremost a tender love poem - with a difference! The poem's title - 'The Flea' - is nothing to do with love in itself, but it becomes the means of joyous union when "our two bloods mingles be". Although, most of the poem deals with the poet almost crudely persuading his lover to sleep with him, it alludes not just to physical satisfaction, which is as fleeting as squashing a flea, but also to have a "more than married" beauty of relationships to which all mankind can aspire. Joshua Sands Page 1 of 2 Dr. Peters ...read more.

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