The Flea

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  • The Flea
    • Mark but this flea, and mark in this,/ How little that which thou deny't me is;
      • Donne begins by setting out the premise of his argument
      • 1000s of years of sexual flea poems - Donne reinvents it by making the flea a symbol of sex - an argumentative hypothetical tool
        • Laurence Perrine: Highly ingeniuos and highly sophisticated reasoning
          • is it that sophisticated? or is it actually sacriligious and smutty?
    • It sucked me first, and now sucks thee,/ And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
      • again the semi-colon acts to split statements and compartments of his argument
      • mingling of blood is a Renaissance reference to sex
      • s and f were written very similarly - lingering of sucked
      • three bloods -arguably a holy reference
    • Thou know'st this cannot be said,/ A sin, nor shame nor loss of maidenhead
      • Donne's argument truly emerges  - trying to convince woman that sex with him is ok
    • Yet this enjoys before it woo,/ And pampered swells with one blood made of two,/ And this alas is than we would do.
      • swelling = clearly phallic
      • sex = clearly celebrated and desired. use of pampered
      • Donne's comic jealousy of the flea. Caesurae in last line, dramatic emphasis on 'alas'
      • ends in a rhyming triplet. other lines = couplets. makes it appear to have a very logical precise movement
      • do's long vowel sounds makes Donne appear slightly pathetic, pleading and winey.
    • 'O stay, three lives in one flea spare,/ Where we almost, yea more than married are.
      • second stanza begins with an exclamation. silent conversation with the woman. she threatens to destroy his argument but he keeps going.
        • victory of male intellect?
      • changes his mind, quickness, broken up rhythm exaggerates.
    • This flea is you and I, and this/ Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
      • marriage - it becomes a sacrament. holy. repetition.
      • unexpected transformation
      • reference to marriage suggests Donne is trying to convince woman they are basically already married, they have basically already had sex. unification of bloods
    • Thou parents grudge, and you, we're met/ And cloistered in these living walls of jet
      • suggestion that it is not her that doesn't want to have sex, but her parents who are forbidding it.
      • black not enlightened. trapped
      • jet is traditionally a mourning stone. But also protection
      • cloistered - religious language
    • Thou use make you apt to kill me,/ Let not to that self-murder added be,/ And sacrilige, three sins in killing three.
      • importance of triplets. importance in rhetoric - also religious implications
      • panic. fast paced thinking. imploring her christian nature.
      • violation of what is sacred: marriage temple and marriage bed.
      • refers back to argument and previous points. she has the power...
      • Laurence Perrine: 'significantly Donne accuses the lady of killing him NOT of  having killed him
    • Cruel and sudden, hast thou since/ Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
      • again stanza starts with shock. use of trochee. starts with stress
      • line ends with catalectic foot . incomplete line of verse. he is in shock stuck stunned.
      • blood of innocence - again could be biblical...
      • Laurence Perrine calls this 'stage action'
    • Wherein could this flea guilty be,/ Except in that drop which it sucked from thee?
      • questions turn argument back on to woman.
      • exposes ridiculousness of previous argument.
    • Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou/ Find'st not thyself, nor me, the weaker now;
      • neither of us has died
      • resigned simplicity. feeling he is building up to a new argument.. the poem is continuing. use of Yet suggests a turn around?
    • 'Tis true; then learn how false, fears be;/ Just so much honour, when thou yieldst to me,/ Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
      • conversation continues. familiarity in language.
      • quite please with himself. changes argument to fit new premise.
      • use of definite language ie. 'when thou yield'st'
      • sense of argumenative symmetry and progression. i.e. this is what you think, but this is the reality of what it means
    • AABBCCDDDrhyme scheme throughout. last stanza is the only one with a clear change.


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