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Analysis Of John Donne's Poem, The Flea

1433 words - 6 pages

The Flea
John Donne’s poems are similar in their content. They usually point out at same topics like love, lust, sex and religion; only they are dissimilar in the feelings they express. These subjects reflect the different stages of his life: the lust of his youth, the love of his married middle age, and the piety of the latter part of his life. His poem,’ The Flea’ represents the restless feeling of lust during his youthful days but it comes together with a true respect for women through the metaphysical conceit of the flea as a church in the rhythm of the sexual act.
The speaker in "The Flea" is a restless, would-be lover who is trying to convince his beloved to give her virginity to him. Therefore, to convince his lover, the speaker employs a flea that is buzzing around the two to form three arguments. The first stanza compares sexual intercourse to two people being bitten by the same flea. Both are connected by "two bloods mingled (Donne 1081)"; and the act of sex is defined by the mixing of fluids, not an act of love or lust. Yet the tone of the passage is one of playful curiosity, which suggests the smile on the face of the speaker as he envisions achieving his lusty goal. We can see the playfulness in his selection and treatment of the subject. A flea is not a normal object held in the light of love; in raising this conceit, we can see the unconventional way the speaker tries to sell his argument. He acts jealous of the flea because it received her blood “before it woo (1081).” The argument is not intense or angry; it ends with a mock sigh: “And this, alas, is more than we would do (1081).” The playful conceit of the first stanza lays the ground for the more outlandish claims of the second and third.
The speaker next takes a more impassioned tone as he seeks to save the flea’s life and embellishes his original conceit. As in the other stanzas, this arranges its four supporting arguments into three couplets and a triplet by rhyme. However, whereas the first stanza loosely held the ideas to couplets, the second shows more organization in thought. This further structure is necessary to support the conceit of the flea as a holy church. The support for this idea is arranged into the following four sub-argument: one, do not kill the flea, because we have conceived within it; two, thus, the flea is like a “marriage bed,” and by extension, a “marriage temple”; three, despite your parents’ and your concerns, that’s the way it is; and four, if you kill the flea, you commit three sins – killing me, killing yourself, and sacrilege by violating the sanctity of the marriage temple. Note that Donne does present an argument to seduce his beloved in this stanza. His words are filled solely with reverence and concern for the flea. Through this, we can see the earnestness and seriousness of the passion he has for his beloved: the sanctity of their relationship – even their surrogate relationship within the flea – is sacred to him.
Finally, the woman...

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