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Compare and contrast “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and “The Flea” by John Donne

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Introduction

English Essay Compare and contrast "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell and "The Flea" by John Donne During the 17th century, metaphysical poetry was very popular. Metaphysical poetry was well known for its knotted sentences and hidden arguments. Often the argument was the main purpose of the poem (The Flea). Metaphysical poems move from one idea to another often making comparisons between things that have little in common, and use imagery and syntax to try to confuse the reader. "Courtley Love" was also very popular during the 17th century. Men in these times used to try and woo women by writing extravagant love poems to them; most were adoring the women's bodies and flattering them by describing their beauty. Most of this was done without any reaction from the women. Some metaphysical poetry mocks this Courtley Love by saying that there is no need for it and it just wastes time (To His Coy Mistress). Both poets try to seduce and woo the women into sleeping with them. The Flea tries to tell a story about a flea; how it had bitten the man and the woman and that their blood was now in the flea. The blood is very significant to them and the poet tries to explain how simple and unimportant sex is. ...read more.

Middle

When he claimed their blood was intermingled in the flea he was suggesting that their souls and bodies were also intermingled and that they are more than married. Marvell's second stanza changes dramatically from the first where he changes the tone, pace and language portraying nightmarish images like "time's winged chariot" - death. Marvell changes his tone in order to shock and scare the lady. He gives her unimaginable ideas of what would happen to her when she dies - without having any fun with him first. His second stanza is as forceful as Donne's poem due to the images he portrays. It also moves far away from the traditional love poetry and trying to woo a woman. Death has a strong influence on the second stanza and is to be feared because everyone is scared of dying. There is also the idea of growing old and being lonely; something that scares everyone as no one wants to be lonely. Another image he portrays is that a lowly worm will take away her virginity when she is dead rather than him; this is a very shocking and disturbing image for her as he tries to make her feel uneasy. Marvell uses the word "quaint" in this stanza, which suggests that he is patronizing the lady and proves he is playing on her fears, as he has little respect for her; he talks down to her. ...read more.

Conclusion

As the woman in To His Coy Mistress has no active involvement in the poem, the reader is able to recognise that the lady may be the feebler of the two, probably because Marvell tried to frighten her. In both poems, neither woman has the chance to put her opinion/point of view because the poets do not let them. The language used in The Flea is very simplistic and monosyllabic which means that it is trying to suggest that sex is unimportant. It also suggests that he is talking to the lady on the same level. In To His Coy Mistress Marvell uses a very exaggerated tone of language where it uses extravagant verbs and metaphors to put across his ideas. I do not think that To His Coy Mistress would be very effective as the ideas and language used is too far fetched and includes nightmarish images, which are inappropriate. The Flea offers a more understandable story and meaning even though the conceit of the flea is quite odd. I think that "The Flea" is far more effective than "To His Coy Mistress" because it speaks on the same level as the reader - therefore the reader has more respect for the poet, and the poem is much more easier to understand and comprehend. (c)Nick Shepherd English Essay 02/05/2007 11AE ...read more.

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