1 Maushakar

Flea John Donne Essays

The speaker uses the occasion of a flea hopping from himself to a young lady as an excuse to argue that the two of them should make love. Since in the flea their blood is mixed together, he says that they have already been made as one in the body of the flea. Besides, the flea pricked her and got what it wanted without having to woo her. The flea’s bite and mingling of their bloods is not considered a sin, so why should their love-making?

In the second stanza the speaker attempts to prevent the woman from killing the flea. He argues that since the flea contains the “life” of both herself and the speaker, she would be guilty both of suicide and a triple homicide in killing it.

The woman in question is obviously not convinced, for in the third stanza she has killed the flea with a fingernail. The speaker then turns this around to point out that, although the flea which contained portions of their lives is dead, neither of them is the weaker for it. If this commingling of bodily fluids can leave no lasting effect, then why does she hesitate to join with him in sexual intimacy? After all, her honor will be equally undiminished.

Analysis

Donne here makes use of the wit for which he eventually became famous—although in his own day his poetry was often considered too lurid to gain popular notoriety, and little of it was published during his lifetime. One of his earlier poems, “The Flea,” demonstrates his ability to take a controlling metaphor and adapt it to unusual circumstances. “The Flea” is made up of three nine-line stanzas following an aabbccddd rhyme scheme.

He begins the poem by asking the young woman to “Mark this flea” (line 1) which has bitten and sucked blood from both himself and her. He points out that she has “denied” him something which the flea has not refrained from enjoying: the intimate union of their bodily fluids (in this case, blood). This commonplace occurrence, he argues, “cannot be said/A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead” (lines 5-6); if this tiny commingling of the two people is not wrong, then how can a greater commingling be considered evil or undesirable? He even points out that the flea is able to enjoy the woman’s essence “before he woo” (line 7), the implication being that he need not court the woman in order to enjoy her sexual favors.

In the second stanza the poet argues for the life of the flea, as his desired lady has made a move to kill it. He paints the flea as a holy thing: “This flea is you and I, and this/Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is” (lines 12-13). (Note also the reference to the Christian concept of "three lives in one" (line 10), suggesting that a spiritual union already exists, although unlike a spiritual marriage in a "marriage temple," the third being in the trio is not God but a flea.) Besides arguing for the sanctity of the flea’s life, the speaker is also arguing that he and the lady have already bypassed the usual vows of fidelity and ceremony of marriage; thus, he pushes toward his point that the two of them have already been joined as one in the flea, so there is no harm in joining their bodies in sexual love.

There is a hint that he has already attempted to gain the lady’s favors and failed, either through her response or that of her parents: “Though parents grudge, and you,” (line 14) he says, suggesting that even her opinion does not matter anymore. The flea has already “cloister’d” them within its body’s “walls of jet” (line 15, possibly also suggesting that they are alone together in a dark room). The woman’s disdain for him and his suit becomes more apparent as he claims she is “apt” to kill him (line 16), following her habit of killing fleas, but he offers that she should refrain from harming the flea because in so doing she would add suicide (“Let not to that self-murder added be” line 17) by destroying the vessel holding her blood. In fact, he says, she would be guilty of “sacrilege, three sins in killing three” (line 18) since his own blood is there too.

He fails in his defense of the flea, for she has “purpled” her finger with the flea's blood by the opening of the third stanza (line 20). It is a “sudden” but perhaps inevitable betrayal of an innocent being. The woman claims triumph over the lover's argument, responding that neither she nor the man is weaker for her having killed the flea (lines 23-24). In this way she attempts to unravel the speaker’s argument that the flea represents a sacred bond between them; the flea is simple to kill and nothing has been lost, and the single drop of blood will not be missed. Thus there is no reason to have sex.

The poet, however, is quick-witted enough to turn her argument back against her: if the death of the flea, which had partaken of just a tiny amount of their life-essences, is virtually no problem, despite his pretended fear, then any fear she might have about her loss of honor is equally a “false” fear. The act of physical union would cause virtually no serious harm to her reputation. That is, as much as she lost to the flea, “Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me, / Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee” (lines 26-27). He thus returns to his original argument from the first stanza: the flea’s intimate contact with the woman has caused her no harm, so a physical encounter with the poet will cause no harm either.

Although the lover suggests that he is in control and that it is a matter of "when thou yield'st," some feminist scholars have noted that he is powerless to do anything until the woman makes her decision. He merely utters his words of warning, but she can raise her hand and kill the flea; similarly, she can exercise her power by continuing to deny the man his desires. The flea could take what it wanted without stopping to woo, but the lover uses no force beyond the force of argument. He has not been successful so far, but we do not know what will happen next.

Analysis of Flea by John Donne

  • Length: 426 words (1.2 double-spaced pages)
  • Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - More ↓
The Flea
The narrator in The Flea is a youthful man trying to convince a young woman to give her virginity to him. He tries to do this by comparing their relationship to a flea that is in the room. The flea bites them both and Donne explains to her that this is symbolic of both of their worlds combining into one. He says that the flea is now the realm of love, lust, and marriage. At first this poem seems to be just about love, commitment from a male to a female, who says no his lustful desires. However, a deeper look than just the superficial reveals that the male in this poem is actually revealing a valid point to his lady: that the loss of innocence, such as her virginity, does not constitute a loss of her honor.
At first, this poem seems to be simply about a young, sexually hungry man who is trying to convince a girl to give into his sexual wishes. She denies the ?wanna be? lover because she believes that the act of intercourse before marriage is a dishonorable sin in the eyes of the church. The lady ends up killing the flea and symbolically killing the false world the man had constructed in the flea. She then says that neither of them are any worse by killing the flea, which the male agrees with. The man concludes his point by granting that the death of the flea does not really have any consequences, just like her fears to loose her respectability and honor. His main point in all his talk about the flea is to show her that her honor will not be ruined if she yields to him.
John Donne?s poem connects flesh and spirit, worldly and religious ideas in a fascinating way between seemingly unrelated topics. He compares sexual intercourse to a bite of a flea and says that now their blood has mixed inside the flea. He also compares the inside of the tiny flea to the entire world, including the couple.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Analysis of Flea by John Donne." 123HelpMe.com. 14 Mar 2018
    <http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=152585>.

LengthColor Rating 
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]1252 words
(3.6 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
Analysis of John Donne's Poem, The Flea Essay - The Flea John Donne’s poems are similar in their content. They usually point out at same topics like love, lust, sex and religion; only they are dissimilar in the feelings they express. These subjects reflect the different stages of his life: the lust of his youth, the love of his married middle age, and the piety of the latter part of his life. His poem,’ The Flea’ represents the restless feeling of lust during his youthful days but it comes together with a true respect for women through the metaphysical conceit of the flea as a church in the rhythm of the sexual act....   [tags: Poetry, Poem Analysis]1411 words
(4 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
The Analysis Of The Profane And Sacred In John Donne's Poems 'The Flea' And 'Holy Sonnet 14' - John Donne who is considered to be one of the wittiest poets of the seventeenth century writes the metaphysical poem "The Flea" and the religious poem "Holy Sonnet 14". In both poems, Donne explores the two opposing themes of physical and sacred love; in his love poem "The Flea," he depicts the speaker as an immoral human being who is solely concerned with pleasing himself, where as in his sacred poem "Holy Sonnet 14" Donne portrays the speaker as a noble human being because he is anxious to please God....   [tags: John Donne]
:: 3 Works Cited
1815 words
(5.2 pages)
Term Papers[preview]
Analysis of Flea by John Donne Essay - The Flea The narrator in The Flea is a youthful man trying to convince a young woman to give her virginity to him. He tries to do this by comparing their relationship to a flea that is in the room. The flea bites them both and Donne explains to her that this is symbolic of both of their worlds combining into one. He says that the flea is now the realm of love, lust, and marriage. At first this poem seems to be just about love, commitment from a male to a female, who says no his lustful desires....   [tags: essays research papers]426 words
(1.2 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
The Flea and The Sun Rising Essay - The metaphysical era in poetry started in the 17th century when a number of poets extended the content of their poems to a more elaborate one which investigated the principles of nature and thought. John Donne was part of this literary movement and he explored the themes of love, death, and religion to such an extent, that he instilled his own beliefs and theories into his poems. His earlier works, such as The Flea and The Sunne Rising, exhibit his sexist views of women as he wrote more about the physical pleasures of being in a relationship with women....   [tags: Literary Analysis, John Donne]1643 words
(4.7 pages)
Better Essays[preview]
Essay Sexual Meaning in John Donne's Poem, The Flea - 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....   [tags: Poetry, Poem Analysis]1479 words
(4.2 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Comparative Analysis of Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? and The Flea - Comparative Analysis of "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" by William Shakespeare and The Flea by John Donne 'Shall I compare thee' by Shakespeare focuses on romantic love, whereas Donne's poem, 'The Flea' is all about seduction and sexual love. The situations in the two poems are very different. In 'Shall I compare thee', the poet is shown as a lover who is addressing his lady. His tone is gentle and romantic. He starts with a rhetorical question to which he must answer and therefore he does not put demand upon the lady....   [tags: William Shakespeare John Donne]2422 words
(6.9 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Love in Valentine and The Flea Essay - Love in Valentine and The Flea Through a close analysis of language, structure and theme, compare and contrast the poets' attitude to love in Valentine and The Flea. The poem "The Flea" is about a man trying to cunningly argue a woman into bed. John Donne's "The Flea" was a metaphysical poem, written most probably, to entertain an audience of men; this was called a coterie, which was a group of like-minded individuals who cleverly wrote for each other's amusement. This poem was written sometime in the 17th century where religion was extremely important and sex before marriage frowned upon....   [tags: The Flea John Donne Carol Ann Duffy Essays]2313 words
(6.6 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]
Essay about The Flea - John Donne - John Donne and an Analysis of "The Flea" John Donne was born on Bread Street, London, in 1572. His family was very rich but they were Roman Catholic, not the best group to be a part of at his time, in England. He studied three years at the University of Oxford and three years at Cambridge. He never got a degree because he refused to take the oath of supremacy at graduation time. He then studied law and was on his way to be a diplomat. He wrote a book of poems, Satires, after his brother died of fever in prison after offering sanctuary to a proscribed catholic priest....   [tags: essays research papers]528 words
(1.5 pages)
Strong Essays[preview]
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]1765 words
(5 pages)
Powerful Essays[preview]

Related Searches

Flea         John Donne         Religious Ideas         Entire World         Sexual Intercourse         Young Woman         Loss Of Innocence         Bites         Virginity        




It is a world where their love can become a reality and no shame will come to them.
Donne makes the point that the woman will lose as much honor giving herself to him as she will loose killing the flea, which is nothing. However he realizes that the church does not see this adulteress act in the same way that they do. He always respects her throughout the poem. The Flea is a mixture of love, lust, and marriage, hitched by Donne.



Leave a Comment

(0 Comments)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *