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Compare the ways John Donne in his poem "The Flea" and Andrew Marvell in his poem "To his Coy Mistress" present the theme of love.

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Introduction

English Literature Coursework Comparative Assignment Compare the ways John Donne in his poem "The Flea" and Andrew Marvell in his poem "To his Coy Mistress" present the theme of love. Donne and Marvell's poems have both similarities and differences, as they both present the theme of love in an unconventional way and dwell on it superficially. This can be seen by the way in which both authors show their views on love, though are clearly just using them as attempts to seduce their mistresses, who are clearly reluctant. Taking this into account, I feel that these "love poems" are more about lust than love and are more focussed on the writer's efforts of seduction. Both poems are one sided dialogues between the poet and his mistress. They do, however, differ in the ways in which they try to portray their feelings on the topic, with Donne's "The Flea", depicting him as comparing sexual intercourse with the way in which his blood is mingled with that of his mistress in a flea, which has bitten both of them. By doing this, he is incorporating 17th Century principles, such as the belief that sexual intercourse involved the mingling of the two bloods, and constantly refers to the flea, in an attempt to persuade his mistress. ...read more.

Middle

This is because the first two stanzas are basically the same argument, with a conclusion included in them, with the third stanza providing both another argument as well as a conclusion. His first argument, as I've already mentioned, revolves around the 17th century principle that sexual intercourse involves the mingling of blood. He is attempting to win her over by saying that, as their bloods are already mingled inside the flea and therefore the act has already taken place and, as she isn't ashamed of this fact, there is no reason why she should continue to refuse his advances. Here he is saying that he cannot comprehend the reason for her not to go to bed with him, as they have, theoretically, already engaged in the act of sexual intercourse. The second part of this argument, in the second stanza, is that they have already consummated their marriage. He then goes on to include powerful religious imagery to try and persuade her to his side of the argument by saying "and sacrilege, three sins in killing one." Not alone does "sacrilege" have strong connotations, but by talking about "three" lives throughout this stanza, Donne brings the idea of trinity into the reader's, and his mistress', mind. ...read more.

Conclusion

Both poems then, however, become more serious and leave this light-hearted tone, with Donne bringing in the idea of marriage, in contrast to Marvell, who includes time and death to add an urgent feel to his poem. By saying "now let us sport us while we may," Marvell is summing up his opinion quite clearly and this is a clear example of how he brings a sense of urgency to his argument. Donne ends on a more serious note than Marvell, however, by using some strong biblical imagery to show his mistress that, by killing the flea she has committed a sin and, if she realises this, she has shown that she feels intercourse is no big deal. Overall, I feel that, rather than being "love" poems, these are both superficial examples of love, which are actually implicated on lust and seduction. A factor which supports this theory is that Donne doesn't even mention love throughout the entire course of his poem, while Marvell uses love to show the extent of his feelings for his mistress and, even then, admits that it is merely vegetable love, which is a basic concept of love being no more than reproduction, and therefore sex. I feel that Marvell's poem can also, however, be associated with making the most of life, as he clearly argues this point in "To his Coy Mistress." ...read more.

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