Seduction Techniques Illustrated in Donne's The Flea and Marvell's To His Coy Mistress

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Men of the 16th and 17th century were the largest contributors of literature of that time. This led to misogynistic views, and subhuman treatment of women. Although it was socially forbidden for a woman to have sex outside of marriage, this did not stop men from trying to convince her. John Donne, a poet of the 16th century, wrote misogynistic pieces in his early works. Andrew Marvell, a contemporary of Donne, who also wrote seduction poems. Donne’s “The Flea” and Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” both have seduction techniques, yet the degree of success is different. The degree of success each seducer has can be judged by looking at the rhetoric, imagery and emotional appeals in “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress.”

The seducer of “The Flea” makes use of different arguments to convince the woman to have sex. One argument is that the blood of both him and his lover has mingled inside a flea, because it has bit them both. He tells her that nothing has befallen her that there is not “A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead” (The Flea, 6). The Flea has both lovers’ blood in it, and they have not committed a sin for the punishment of their blood mixing. The seducer connects this to sex and explains that there will not be any punishment for having intercourse, either. This is not successful because he must use other ways to convince her. The seducer also uses imagery. He calls the flea, with his and her blood inside of it, a holy trinity. He explains it would be suicidal to kill the flea, and that it would be “sacrilege, three sins in killing three” (The Flea, 18). The seducer shows his lover that they all form a trinity, and it should not be broken. The image of the holy trinity to the lover would have been a strong point, but the ex...

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...gth into one ball;/ And tear our pleasures with rough strife” (To His Coy Mistress, 41-42). The seducer’s argument is blunt and straight to the point. He tells her that while they are still youthful, they should have sex. After his other arguments, the man might be able to convince the lady, through flattery and trust. When compared with “The Flea,” “To His Coy Mistress” seduction techniques are much more refined and well thought out.

The ability to use rhetoric, imagery and emotional appeal by the seducers of “The Flea” and “To His Coy Mistress” have some success in seducing women. The rhetoric used in Donne’s poem does not seem as planned or sophisticated as Marvell’s. Although there are many misogynistic poems from the 16th and 17th century, woman did not cave into the man’s pressure so easily. If they did, men would not have a reason to write about seduction.
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