Comparative Analysis of "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" by William Shakespeare and The Flea by John Donne
'Shall I compare thee' by Shakespeare focuses on romantic love,
whereas Donne's poem, 'The Flea' is all about seduction and sexual
The situations in the two poems are very different. In 'Shall I
compare thee', the poet is shown as a lover who is addressing his
lady. His tone is gentle and romantic. He starts with a rhetorical
question to which he must answer and therefore he does not put demand
upon the lady. The poem gives the impression that it is set perhaps in
his room, where he is composing his poem. One thing is for sure and
that is that the woman he is addressing is not with him, because all
the way through the poem, there is no response from her. Shakespeare
wants to emphasize her beauty.
In 'The Flea' the poet is directly appealing to the woman or his
mistress. They seem to be in bed together with a flea, but no sex
seems to have taken place. If it had, then the situation would be very
different. The poet has seduced her as far as the bedroom and at this
point, it seems as though he is going to try a new strategy. The woman
does not appear to be very keen and is resisting his advances.
Compared with Donne's poem, in 'Shall I compare thee' the poet is
simply flattering the woman and wants her to like him. It is also
one-sided, unlike in 'The Flea' where the woman gives her views as
well. 'Shall I compare thee' is similar to 'First Love' by John Clare
in this way. In 'First Love', only the poet's views are shown and
therefore it is also one-sided. In 'The Flea' the poet's aim is to
have sex with the woman, but in 'Shall I compare thee' there is no
seduction or hidden agenda.
The poets also argue their cases differently. Both poets use a three
part argument although Shakespeare's is in the form of a sonnet whilst
Donne's is a three stanza poem. Shakespeare's poem is a sonnet and
consists of three quatrains and a rhyming couplet. The first two
quatrains start with the rhetorical question 'Shall I compare theeâ€¦'
and the rest of this section answers this question. However, this
question has an obvious answer of 'no' because the next line says,
"Thou art more temperate and beautiful".
The poet thinks she is perfect, unlike a summer's day. He says that
the summer's day is "sometime to hot" and has "rough windes", but she
is "more lovely". He uses personification in the line,
"And often is his gold complexion dim'd".
He uses this technique to show that the sun has a face, which glows,
but not always and therefore shows that summer is not perfect, but she
is. He describes her as being "temperate" which means that she is
moderate compared to the temperamental weather of an English summer.
This is one of the things he says to compliment...