In “A Broken Heart,” John Donne reveals the speaker’s unusual attitude toward love through language, imagery, and form. The speaker regards love as a relentless, powerful, and cruel monster that transcends human control. Personification and dramatic monologue help the reader to understand the speaker’s warped perspective of love. Meter, rhyme scheme and pattern also emphasize the unstable tone in each octave. After the first two stanzas, the speaker’s attitude shifts from exaggerated rage to withdrawn grief. Even though an ex-lover caused his heart’s deterioration, the speaker cannot blame her because “after one such love” he could love no other.
The brokenhearted speaker utilizes language as a vehicle to portray his initial hostile attitude toward love. The first stanza rebuffs the longevity of love through the syntax of rhetorical questions while personifying love as a force that rapidly devours hearts. The speaker’s opening statements display his bitter and cynical position toward love. Inverse hyperboles help emphasize loves brevity by using metaphors such as “the plague” and watching “a flask of powder burn a day” (6, 8). These exaggerations of time present the initial tone of the speaker as hostile and pessimistic because he believes love cannot last without destroying him. Multiple literary elements help convey this negative attitude toward love. For example, the speaker personifies love as an untamed beast to demonstrate its evilness and recklessness. The monster of love “swallows us and never chaws” as if “He is the tyrant pike, our hearts the fry” (14, 16). Again, love embodies the role of a power outside of human control, yet now the speaker compares him to an...
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In John Donne’s poem “The Broken Heart” the speaker undergoes a thorough transformation in attitude. Throughout the first two octaves, the speaker condemns love as a monster that can devour ten hearts in less than an hour. Although the speaker initially appears hostile, he later reveals a regretful side, which displays a complete change in attitude. The structure and form of the poem help with the shift in attitude at the beginning of the dramatic monologue in the third stanza. The author’s use of iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter help further the connection between the form of the poem and the speaker’s attitude. In addition, Donne’s use of language leads to the depiction of imagery in the poem. The change in attitude toward love between the first two stanzas and the last two stanzas results from the author’s use of language, imagery, and form.
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