The Flea: Rhetoric and Poetry Mingling

1180 WordsJun 22, 20185 Pages
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. Donne’s hyperbolic use of the flea extends through the poem as a metaphysical conceit to convey a logical argument out of something seemingly…show more content…
He warns the woman to not “[l]et…that self-murder added be,/And sacrilege, three sins in killing three…”, thus three sins would weigh on her. In killing the flea she metaphorically kills herself, the speaker, and killing their metaphorical marriage (which is only present within the flea) thus enacting blasphemously (Donne lines 17-8). The final stanza allows the reader and the woman to finally address the woman’s main concern: her innocence. A woman’s virtue, or more specifically the loss of innocence outside of wedlock, is an extremely controversial and scandalous act that mars the woman’s identity in society for the rest of her life. This is possibility of losing face within the society holds the woman back from giving herself to the speaker, and thus sparking this twenty-seven line poetic argument to persuade her into his bed. This stanza starts off with the sudden death of the flea, which the speaker sees it as a “[c]ruel and sudden…[act that has]/Purpled [her] nail in blood of innocence…” (Donne lines 19-20). This, to the speaker, is death of innocence. He sees it as cruel and the spilling of innocent blood as blasphemous. The death of the “innocent” flea could be an allusion to the death of Jesus Christ, however the speaker is incredibly vague and thus it is impossible to say so conclusively. The speaker continues the innocence metaphor in tandem with the conceit of the flea, as he

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