Explication Of John Donne's The Flea

1167 words - 5 pages

On the surface, John Donne’s poem “The Flea” dramatizes the conflict between two people on the issue of premarital sex, however, under the surface, the poem uses religious imagery to seduce the woman into having sex. The speaker in this poem is a man, who is strategically trying to convince a woman to have premarital sex with him through the conceit based on a flea, however, the coy lady has thus far yielded to his lustful desires. The speaker’s argument has the form of logic, which contradicts to its outrageous content.
In the first stanza, the speaker wants his beloved lady to observe a flea and not think of anything else as he delivers his argument. A flea bites the speaker and his beloved causing their blood to mix, which, according to the narrator, is the same as having sex and creating a child. Then, the speaker explains to the woman that this mixing of blood is neither sinful nor shameful, or a loss of the woman’s “maidenhead.” He also explains that they have conceived a child a through the mixing of blood in the flea. He starts this stanza with a caesura in the middle of the line. For example the first line, “Mark but this flea, and mark in this,” has a definite pause between the words “flea” and “and.” The speaker pauses because he is trying to form some kind logic out of his argument for himself. The oratorical tone of the poem is interwoven throughout all three stanzas with run-on lines, which makes the tempo of the poem seem as if the speaker was not trying to rhyme. Not having a conversational tone in the poem, would take away from some of the intimacy of the words.
The reader has to read between the lines and stanzas, because actions take place in the blank spaces between them. We assume that the woman is about to kill the flea because in the second stanza, the speaker pleads with the woman for the flea’s life. He justifies saving the flea’s life in line 11 by saying that now they are “more than married” through the flea. The speaker says that they are the flea, and the flea is their marriage bed and temple, therefore justifying premarital sex between the two. Now, making his plea, the speaker goes further by saying in line14 that “we are met,” meaning that they have already been sexually acquainted because of the mixing of blood between the two lovers inside of the flea’s body. The speaker then explains that if she were to kill the flea, she would be committing three sins against God in killing herself, him, and the flea.
In the blank space before the third stanza we infer that the woman has killed the flea. He is upset at the woman because she killed the flea and wants to know how this flea was guilty. The tone of the poem changes in this stanza because now, he is chastising her for her sins. He is even cool and harsh when he says, “Just so much honor, when thou yield’st to me, /Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee” (26-27) He then concludes by explaining that...

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