• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Examine the ways in which the poets in “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” try to persuade their mistresses.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Judith Johnson Examine the ways in which the poets in "The Flea" and "To His Coy Mistress" try to persuade their mistresses. Both "The Flea" by John Donne and "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell are seduction poems, written by the poets to seduce their mistresses. Both have three stanzas and a basic couplet rhyming structure. Donne and Marvell are metaphysical poets from the 17th century. They have taken simple ideas and stretched them far - for example, using a flea as a symbol of union. They have made philosophical poems about simple facts of life - for example, the fear of death seen in "To His Coy Mistress". The similarity seen between these poems is quite surprising - the use of imagery, enjambement and variation in rhythm and rhyme to relate their ideas, and the way they put forward their arguments to seduce their mistresses. In "The Flea", the flea is used as a symbol of their love, or his love for her. The word 'flea' has many connotations and denotations, but interestingly, when spoken sounds the same as the verb, to 'flee'. In addition to perhaps suggesting the fleeting nature of love, the word also connotes danger: "to run away as from danger; to take flight; to try to escape", is the Oxford English Dictionaries definition. It can also connote an abrupt ending "to run away from, hasten away from; to quite abruptly, forsake (a person or a place, etc.)". This insight would give an added dimension to Donne's use of a flea in his poem. The OED also provides us with the definition "a small wingless insect well known for its biting propensities and its agility leaping." The finding that fleas do not have wings could be quite significant, because in "The Flea" the flea plays the role of Cupid. Using the imagery of a flea crushes any expectations of high, pompous language and describes love in basic, common terms. ...read more.

Middle

He tells her that when she is dead in her "marble vault", he will no longer be there, speaking to her. He describes his words as an "echoing song", which conjures up images of a creepy, repetitive, faint tune. He is trying to make what he says appear as though it were a thought going round in his mistress's head, a memory of what could have been. Marvell chooses here to place one of the most effective - if revolting - uses of imagery in the poem, "worms shall try That long preserved virginity". He is saying that if she doesn't let a man take her virginity in life, then the worms will take it in when she is dead, as her body rots in the earth. This is a very frightening prospect, and shows how far the poet is willing to push, to work his persuasive argument. In the next line, he calls her "honour", "quaint." The Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word "quaint" is: "old fashioned, daintily odd". This is not really something that most people would to be described as; it is not a pleasant way to describe a person. When Marvell writes "And into ashes all my lust", he is almost laying the responsibility of his lust on her, adding this pressure to his persuasive argument. The second stanza is ended with sarcasm and irony, "The grave's a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace." Marvell is saying that there is no physicality after death. He is saying this so sarcastically that its unpleasant; it is patronising and you can see the way he really feels about his mistress - that she is being stupid to deny him her virginity. This stanza has taken a real turn compared to the first, and here, instead of using his love for her as reasoning for her to sleep with him, he uses time's passing, and threats. ...read more.

Conclusion

In "The Flea", the enjambment is sometimes used to tell us of the poet's emotion - this enforces Donne's seduction argument by making it seem like he really means what he is saying. It also places the emphasis where he wants it - this is true for "To His Coy Mistress", too. These two poems are written by men trying to woo their women. We do not get the impression that these men are in love, but more that they are trying to pretend they are so that they can persuade their mistresses to have sex with them. There are four different arguments presented by Donne in "The Flea" to persuade his mistress to have sex with him, whilst Marvell presents three. Donne starts with complaining that the flea has done more than they have together, sexually, moves on to the idea that the flea has already brought them together, so sex is naturally the next step, and the last stanza sees as he starts by claiming that sex is innocent and natural, and ends with the argument that the flea has already taken her blood, and that sex with him will take no more from than the flea did. Marvell's first persuasion tactic is a romantic one - that he loves her so much she should have sex with him, the second persuasive argument is that if she doesn't have sex with him, time will pass and she will die a virgin. His last is again one of time - that they should take hold of time how they can, and make "him [Marvell personifies time in his poem] run". The imagery in "To His Coy Mistress" is very effective, and the use of a flea as a symbol in a love poem holds together quite well, even if it is a rather surprising choice. The enjambment in both poems really gives the poems meaning, creating a tone in each of them, and whether the mistresses they were trying to persuade were every actually persuaded or not, it is clear that the poets went to great lengths in their attempts. 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Andrew Marvell section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Andrew Marvell essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Which of 'The Sun Rising' by John Donne and 'To His Coy Mistress' by ...

    sly way so that she still feels as though she is loved. This is ambiguous as what he expected her to understand from it was that he would wait a long time if there was no limit on their mortality.

  2. Compare and Contrast 'To His Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell with 'To His Mistress ...

    to throw deception in the path way of men. From this we can deduce that women were perceived as deceptive to gain benefits by many people, maybe even society as a majority. However what the men in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries perceived as deception, we would now take as our public and private images.

  1. The Metaphysical Poets: John Donne and Andrew Marvell.

    thy skin like morning dew...", "at every pore with instant fires...", "Let us roll all our strength and all our sweetness up into one ball..." Marvell's sole purpose of this imagery technique is to make what he is saying clearer for his mistress, the same as personification.

  2. Compare and contrast John Donne's 'The Flea' and Andrew Marvell's 'To His Coy Mistress'; ...

    The line "No more in thy marble vault shall sound my echoing song," is used to say that the words he is saying will not be heard when they are both dead. This is further evident when Marvell uses a phallic symbol in the line "...then worms shall try that long preserved virginity."

  1. Compare 'To His Coy Mistress' by Andrew Marvell with 'Sonnet 138' by William Shakespeare. ...

    'And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.' I think that this is a beautiful way to end the poem because its saying despite all this deceit and lies we tell each other and fool each other we are happy and that is the most important thing. The overall meaning of the poem is that no matter what, if you are happy then that's all that counts.

  2. Compare Ideas and Images in the Six Metaphysical Love Poems

    Not only does Donne trivialise the death of the flea, he attempts to lower the importance of copulation: "Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee." The value of love and intercourse is also varied from poem to poem.

  1. To his coy mistress

    In lines 5 to 6 in stanza 2 ' he wore me like a silken knot' is a simile and it suggest that his love isn't going to last as it is going to fall apart like a silken knot as silk is virtually impossible to make a knot in.

  2. To his Coy Mistress

    When they are dead he cannot sing to her, and she will not hear his entreaties. 'Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound my echoing song'. This repetition of syllables and sounds gives an impression of a love song sounding hollow in a tomb.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work