Love in Donne's Poetry and in Sheridan's 'The School for Scandal'

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  • Created by: Olivia
  • Created on: 03-06-10 14:59

Neo-Platonism

Neo-Platonic poems such as 'The Good Morrow', 'The Sun Rising', and 'The Anniversary' all present love as unassuming, pure, and healing. Most interestingly, Donne's persona is not blinded by the gender stereotypes of his time, where female and male protocols affected courtly love. The lovers in these poems are not bound by their sexual or physical attributes, in fact Donne takes an adrogynous tone of voice. Both female and male are "kings", equal and "thoroughly blest". This was a revolutionary attitude to love, where the spiritual took over the physical. Alternatively, one could argue that the persona is prudent on issues such as sex because of his fear of female power. This is evident in 'Going to Bed', where the speaker exalts the beauty of his mistress's body, "O my America!", but ends up resenting her power over him.

In 'The School for Scandal', love can also be healing. Maria and Charles's love, despite her fortune and his "rogue" reputation, is constant and pure. "Ah, can I leave this virtuous path those eyes illumine?" Like the neo-platonism of Donne's poetry, there is an absense of sex and the physical, replaced by the moral and spiritual.

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Cynicism and ignorance

In contrast the purity of love, Donne and Sheridan also illustrate its cynical nature. In Donne's 'Aire and Angels', the reader is startled by the paradoxical use of angelic imagery and cynicism. The speaker remarks "some glorious nothing I did see." The paradox acknowledges the beauty of a woman, but the emptiness of her love, that her appearance does not live up to her inconsistant love. The same is said of 'The Message', which is slightly more comical. Donne, known for his witty, ingenious conceits, uses generic phrases such as "Send home my harmless heart!" The interjections and parenthesis, "oh", fools the reader into thinking that the speaker is hurt by his mistress. Yet, at a second glance, the reader realises the falsehood of the speaker. Love can therefore deceitful and hyprocritical.

In 'The School for Scandal', love is cynical for all except Maria and Charles. Lady Sneerwell's justifications for her malice are born out of her affection for Charles, whom she labels a "libertine". Her affection for Charles, therefore, becomes desire rather than pure love. Love that destroys the lives of other characters is not pure at all. Perhaps Sheridan suggests that love can be confused for lust.

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