Essay on The Flea by John Donne

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The Flea by John Donne

“The Flea”, a witty poem of seduction and conceit, taken from John
Donne’s “Songs and Sonets” is the poem that I have chosen to compare to “Song”, another poem of John Donne’s where he is passionately pleading with his wife not to be disheartened about his departure abroad. Both poems which belong to “ Songs and Sonets”, written around the time of the 16th century, show that their title suggests they are both short poems, following the traditional form of a sonnet, consisting of fourteen lines. However, they are not “songs” in the conventional sense we think of and none of them are written as a sonnet. In fact,
Donne’s poems were intended for circulation around his local pub,
“Lincoln’s Inn”, where
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He reveals an attitude that is persuasive, but manipulative by saying that since they are one in the flea, they should make love anyway, seeing as they are already joined. I question whether this is love, or lust?

Donne presses on with his argument, he develops a series of persuasions to attempt his mistress into bed with him:

“ How little that thou deny’st me is.”

Here, Donne is again being manipulative; he is scornful and is appealing to her to see how desperate he is for her to agree. By using a triple structure, he is appealing to her knowledge and is showing emphasis:

“ Thou know’st that this cannot be said

A sinne, nor shame, nor loss of maiden head”

Here Donne has asked his mistress not to kill the flea, cleverly revealing that it would be suicide since both her and Donne are joined as one in this flea. He uses a hyperbole, the deliberate exaggeration of saying this would be a murder, thus creates effect. He uses emotional blackmail and accusatory towards his mistress. However, the argument is turned around, when she retorts that neither of them are worse off in this act, to which he proceeds a mock concession, pretending to give into her point. The final few lines of the final stanza show a reversal. Donne agrees with his mistress’ argument, he can see how she would be right when she claims that killing a flea is so unimportant. However, there