In this essay I will discuss two poems, “The Flea” written by John Donne and “To His Coy Mistress,” written by Andrew Marvell. Both poems are written during the Renaissance Period during the early to mid-1600s by highly educated authors. Although not written to relate to or correspond with one another, the poems encompass a commonality in which the speaker in each poem is pursuing intimacy with their lover using different persuasion techniques. The authors use several hypothetical concepts within the language of their texts to provide critical arguments to the women that were denying what both speakers wanted, intimacy. In the poem “The Flea,” Donne uses humor and sort of a metaphysical love-scenario to capture the reader.
The speaker, also the man in the poem, uses the flea as a romantic tool to persuade his lover to make love to him. The flea first hops on the man, then to the woman, and since the flea contains the blood of both after being bitten, he mentions they have been made one by the flea. He proceeds with the idea that since the flea did not commit a sin by taking their blood, then why should they see making love as one?The man tries to prevent her from killing the flea because there is life of both her and him contained within it. If she were to kill the flea, then she would not only be taking a life, but also theirs. The author uses the flea, although an unsuspecting symbol, to relate romantic advances and love.
The woman, not agreeing with the man, kills the flea with her fingernail. In a counter to his loss in persuasion, the man then assures her that the death of the flea does not make them weaker, and that her honor would also not be weakened if such acts of intimacy were to occur between them. In “To His Coy Mistress,” Marvell uses seductive romanticism parallel with apparent sarcasm in the speaker’s advances. The speaker is a man who is trying to entice his virgin love to become intimate with him. He says to the woman that her ‘coyness’ or hesitance would be acceptable if they had infinite time for that. He believes they should take advantage of their sensuality while it lasts, and they are young. The man tells the woman that her virginity and beauty will only last while alive and would only be good to the worms thereafter. This persuasiveness to court her shows his self-sacrificing state when he states, “I would Love you ten years before the flood. ” He also fears the shortness of life, and that he will miss his chance with her as he reminds her that life is brief, and they must hurry before all is over. There are several metaphors that talk about death in this poem such as the worms, ashes, the grave, and the iron gates of life. The use of these metaphors appear to hold a dual meaning in this poem. Perhaps, if his words of romance and the shortness of their time do not work to persuade the woman, the vivid words may imply her fate. There is a morbidity within these metaphors creating an implication that he will not easily settle for rejection. Both speakers use effective language to in attempt to convince their lovers that they want an intimate relationship, but the women they are speaking to are refusing their requests. Donne’s character took a symbolic approach, primarily using the flea as his bargaining tool.
When he came to the realization that his seemingly clever approach was unsuccessful, he escalated his argument to emphasize on a highly valued importance among women during this time period, her honor. Marvell, on the other hand, used religion and romance to woo the woman that his speaker was pursuing. He uses romanticism when he suggests in a very direct manner that they should not waste any time, because time is limited, but to instead, “Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball and tear our pleasures with rough strife. ” Additionally, religion is implied when the speaker references the flood, the conversion of the Jews, and again when referencing the iron gates of life as a method in proving his devotion to her. The authors both present their argument in a very different manner where Donne is representing his woman as having already lost blood from the flea, and Marvell is representing his woman as “coy” and essentially unfair or even cruel for denying him what he wants. The approach taken in “The Flea” does not portray a romantic value at all, instead the flea is a minuscule creature, a pest, and although the idea is a logical scenario, it doesn’t provide much of an emotional response. Marvell’s poem references his desire for her reciprocity in a communal partnership through words that describe his adoration for her. There are subsequently motives the authors use as defensive tactics in response to a knowingly potential negative outcome. For example, Donne’s character states, “mark but this flea, and mark in this, how little that which thou deniest me is. ” He is implicating that this is a minute circumstance in which it is natural, like the bite of the flea, and that yet she denies him her physical love.
Marvell speaks on the instance where if the woman keeps her virginity for an eternity, it will be enjoyed within her grave by the worms, what a waste of life it is to not enjoy what is in front of you, yet instead let nature eagerly benefit. Both authors provided valid statements in their poetry that effectively supported their arguments for the intended purpose. Both of the authors wrote on a scenario where the speaker is placing a lot of effort into achieving their goal. It is apparent that the successes may have not been as substantial as anticipated based on their individual arguments. The emotional, versus the lack of such input was a major difference between the two poems. Marvell’s character expressed his needs in order to continue his devotion to his love, and Donne’s did not provide much more than a flea as a foundation toward a partnership that may be exclusively an isolated instance.
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