Essay Sexual Meaning in John Donne's Poem, The Flea

Essay Sexual Meaning in John Donne's Poem, The Flea

Length: 1479 words (4.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Following a unique poetic language of the Renaissance, John Donne's ‘The Flea' is a poem illustrating the metaphor of a flea to represent the sexual act and relations between a man and woman. Portrayed through language, imagery, and structure John Donne's poem is one of conceit and seduction, as the speaker (assumed to be a man) follows a consistent pattern of persuasion to have premarital sex with a woman.
Written during the 17th century, John Donne utilizes an unconventional genre in his poem, demeaning and objectifying the female sex. A common motif in poems of the Renaissance, Donne uses a flea as a metaphorical comparison to sexual intercourse and the eternal bind between man and woman. Illustrated throughout the poem, Donne continues to compare the act of love to the actions of a flea, as it attaches itself to its host, sucks the blood, and later dies. "Mark but this flea, and mark in this," (line 1), immediately Donne introduces the metaphor of a flea, in this line literally describing a flea bite, however figuratively describing lovemaking. "How little that which thou deny'st me is" (line 2), the speakers voice in the poem portrays a very manipulative and chauvinistic tone, demonstrated in the second line of the poem where he compares lovemaking to a fleabite, and by describing the act as ‘little'. Evidentially, the speaker is trying to woe the woman into bed by using a fleabite as a metaphor, portraying that their blood has already been mixed in the flea's body, and therefore it is as if the sexual act of love has already been done. The image that Donne is illustrating in the first stanza of the poem is a man and woman lying in bed, being bitten by a flea, thus ‘mingling' their blood as one. "And in this flea, our two b...


... middle of paper ...


... bed, by alluding to the mixing of their blood in a fleas body, however in the third stanza the woman kills the flea, and demonstrates that it changes nothing. Thus, there is a reversal of the argument, as the speaker is no longer trying to convince the woman otherwise, and the tone continues to be driven by conceit. "Cruel and sudden, hast thou since/purpled thy nail, in blood of innocence" (lines 19,20). Here the diction shows that although the woman's emotions are not portrayed nor is her voice employed in the poem, it is obvious that she has made an affect on the speaker and his diction portrays slight anger.
Therefore, through clever manipulation of the metaphor of a flea, structure and rhyme scheme, and tone, Donne portrays the outlook of a male speaker towards sex, as he consistently trivializes and simplifies the act of love in order to woe a woman into bed.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Seduction in John Donne's The Flea

- Seduction in John Donne's The Flea Poetry is not only a brilliant form of expression, but also a powerful tool for persuasion. The renowned metaphysical poet John Donne uses the genre for this very purpose in “The Flea,” a work in which he encourages a young woman to have premarital sex with him. Donne backs his argument by referring to a flea that has sucked his own blood as well as his lover’s. In the first stanza Donne assures the woman that sleeping together would be a minor act....   [tags: John Donne Flea Poem Poetic Essays]

Powerful Essays
1020 words (2.9 pages)

Essay Explication of John Donne's The Flea

- Explication of John Donne's The Flea John Donne's, "The Flea," is a persuasive poem in which the speaker is attempting to establish a sexual union with his significant other. However, based on the woman's rejection, the speaker twists his argument, making that which he requests seem insignificant. John Donne brings out and shapes this meaning through his collaborative use of conceit, rhythm, and rhyme scheme. In the beginning, Donne uses the flea as a conceit, to represent a sexual union with his significant other....   [tags: John Donne Flea Essays]

Free Essays
406 words (1.2 pages)

The Flea: Rhetoric and Poetry Mingling Essay

- In John Donne’s poem, “The Flea”, Donne uses the conceit of the flea to contrast the insignificant size of the flea and the incredibly significant metaphor attached to the flea. The speaker of the poem is talking to a woman, trying to convince her into having sex with him outside of marriage. This poem can be broken into three stanzas, of nine lines each, utilizes the image of the flea to convey three main ideas: the first as a vessel where their essence mingles, second as the institution of marriage, and finally as an insignificant representation of honor which would have no effect on them....   [tags: john donne, the flea, sex outside marriage]

Powerful Essays
1189 words (3.4 pages)

A Structural and Vocabulary Analysis of John Donne's The Flea Essay

- A Structural and Vocabulary Analysis of John Donne's "The Flea" In his poem "The Flea", John Donne shows his mastery in creating a work in which the form and the vocabulary have deliberately overlapping significance. The poem can be analyzed for the prominence of "threes" that form layers of multiple meanings within its three stanzas. In each of the three stanzas, key words can be examined to show (through the use of the OED) how Donne brilliantly chose them because of the various connotations they had to his audience....   [tags: Poem Poet Poetry Essays John Donne Flea]

Powerful Essays
1252 words (3.6 pages)

The Flea By John Donne Essay

- John Donne is known as being one of the most famous and influential metaphysical poets. The term “metaphysical," as applied to English and continental European poets of the seventeenth century, was used by Augustan poets John Dryden and Samuel Johnson to reprove those poets for their “unnaturalness.” As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, however, “The unnatural, that too is natural," and the metaphysical poets continue to be studied and revered for their intricacy and originality. Due to Donne’s personal experiences with spirituality and love, he is able to grasp the true meaning of metaphysical poetry (Brief Guide to Metaphysical Poets)....   [tags: Metaphysical poets, John Donne, Poetry]

Powerful Essays
1144 words (3.3 pages)

The Flea Essay example

- The poem “The Flea” by John Donne is a funny poem showing that something as small as a flea can be compared to premarital sex. The flea, which is made to seem insignificant throughout the poem, is taken on a “sex” journey without ever even knowing it. The poem maintains one speaker until the end, but interesting enough, has two significant characters: the speaker and his lover. The audience is the speaker’s lover, yet she has a major role that goes beyond listening. While he is trying to convince his female lover to see that her virginity isn’t all that it’s hyped to be (insignificant), he compares a flea to sex in the process....   [tags: Poetry Analysis]

Powerful Essays
1765 words (5 pages)

The Flea By John Donne Essays

- Sex is a taboo subject in this day and age to speak about however poet John Donne does not shy away from the topic in his writing. John Donne approaches sex through his poem “The Flea”. “The Flea” published after the death of John Donne in 1663 is known as an erotic metaphysical poem. A poem that focuses on the use of extended metaphors and put emphasis on the words rather than lyrical quality. Even though it contains an unresolved ending, “The Flea” is a lighthearted poem that showcases John Donne uses of creative intelligence of language and tone in the voice of the narrator....   [tags: Sexual intercourse, Human sexual behavior]

Powerful Essays
1255 words (3.6 pages)

The Flea By John Donne Essay

- John Donne’s “The Flea” details the attempts of a lover to convince his partner of the insignificance of physical love through conceit. The desperate lover hopes to woo ahesitant woman to have sex with him because physical love means nothing. Donne utilizes biblical allusions through symbolism and slant rhyme as the speaker builds and rebuilds his crooked case for the unimportance of sex. When the action of the poem shifts, the speaker’s argument shifts accordingly. The flea transforms into a symbol of the conscience that is the main obstacle to the physical love that the speaker seeks....   [tags: Poetry, Rhyme, Carpe diem, Marriage]

Powerful Essays
1026 words (2.9 pages)

John Done's The Flea Essay

- When one thinks about a flea, an array of images and ideas come to mind. Some might reminisce on a childhood pet, while for others a flea may evoke thoughts of something more sinister, such as widespread disease; however, one topic that is presumably not at the top of the average person’s list of subjects immediately linked to fleas is premarital sex between two young lovers. Although by conventional standards a flea is worlds away from being a romantic metaphor for consummating a relationship, it is exactly the symbol that John Donne chooses to use in this poem....   [tags: poetry, literary analysis]

Powerful Essays
1578 words (4.5 pages)

Explication of John Donne's The Flea Essay

- On the surface, John Donne’s poem “The Flea” dramatizes the conflict between two people on the issue of premarital sex, however, under the surface, the poem uses religious imagery to seduce the woman into having sex. The speaker in this poem is a man, who is strategically trying to convince a woman to have premarital sex with him through the conceit based on a flea, however, the coy lady has thus far yielded to his lustful desires. The speaker’s argument has the form of logic, which contradicts to its outrageous content....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
1079 words (3.1 pages)