Love in To His Coy Mistress and The Flea Essay

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Love in To His Coy Mistress and The Flea

Both 'To His Coy Mistress', by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) and 'The Flea', by John Donne (1572-1631) present different attitudes to love. Both are also structured very differently and occasionally use contrasting imagery. Each poem was written in the 17th century, just after the Renaissance. The poets were metaphysical poets. Although the 'metaphysic' was originally a derogatory term, metaphysical poetry used intellectual and theological concepts in an ingenious way.

Metaphysical poetry was partly written in rebellion against the highly conventional Elizabethan love poetry just prior to the time. Conventional love poetry what one would generally expect of a
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Also, as their bloods are already 'mingled' (L.4) in the flea, her virginity is not immensely valuable. This links with the 17th century idea that women became pregnant when the blood of the man mixed with her blood during sexual intercourse.¹

In contrast, Marvell's use of imagery is more complex, in a way, as he uses many different concepts to persuade. However, like the image of the flea, the image of worms that will 'try' (L.27) the Coy Mistress in death is very unconventional. It presents the attitude that the act of love is completely necessary in a relationship. The phallic imagery is used in a threatening way as worms are generally associated with earth and tombs, which corresponds to the idea of death.

The notion of time is used as the basis for the argument in 'To his Coy Mistress'. Marvell manipulates the idea of time in different ways. In the first stage of the poem he uses time, as he flatters the Coy Mistress, to suggest that love is a timeless pleasure, and that even 'thirty thousand' (L.16) years would not be enough time to adore her.

In the second part of his argument, however, Marvell changes the tone to one of urgency as the speaker frightens the Coy Mistress and threatens that his lust will be 'into ashes' (L.30) in death. He incorporates death imagery with time in a rather sinister way,
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