Persuading their Mistresses in The Flea and To His Coy Mistress Essay

Persuading their Mistresses in The Flea and To His Coy Mistress Essay

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Persuading their Mistresses in The Flea and To His Coy Mistress

Examine the ways in which the poets in The Flea and To His Coy
Mistress try to persuade their mistresses.

Both "The Flea" by John Donne and "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew
Marvell are seduction poems, written by the poets to seduce their
mistresses. Both have three stanzas and a basic couplet rhyming
structure. Donne and Marvell are metaphysical poets from the 17th
century. They have taken simple ideas and stretched them far - for
example, using a flea as a symbol of union. They have made
philosophical poems about simple facts of life - for example, the fear
of death seen in "To His Coy Mistress". The similarity seen between
these poems is quite surprising - the use of imagery, enjambement and
variation in rhythm and rhyme to relate their ideas, and the way they
put forward their arguments to seduce their mistresses.

In "The Flea", the flea is used as a symbol of their love, or his love
for her. The word 'flea' has many connotations and denotations, but
interestingly, when spoken sounds the same as the verb, to 'flee'. In
addition to perhaps suggesting the fleeting nature of love, the word
also connotes danger: "to run away as from danger; to take flight; to
try to escape", is the Oxford English Dictionaries definition. It can
also connote an abrupt ending "to run away from, hasten away from; to
quite abruptly, forsake (a person or a place, etc.)". This insight
would give an added dimension to Donne's use of a flea in his poem.
The OED also provides us with the definition "a small wingless insect
well known for its biting propensities and its agility leaping." The
finding that fleas do not have wings could be quite significant,
because ...


... middle of paper ...


...blood, and that sex with him will
take no more from than the flea did. Marvell's first persuasion tactic
is a romantic one - that he loves her so much she should have sex with
him, the second persuasive argument is that if she doesn't have sex
with him, time will pass and she will die a virgin. His last is again
one of time - that they should take hold of time how they can, and
make "him [Marvell personifies time in his poem] run". The imagery in
"To His Coy Mistress" is very effective, and the use of a flea as a
symbol in a love poem holds together quite well, even if it is a
rather surprising choice. The enjambment in both poems really gives
the poems meaning, creating a tone in each of them, and whether the
mistresses they were trying to persuade were every actually persuaded
or not, it is clear that the poets went to great lengths in their
attempts.

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