The flea John Donne (1572-1631)

  • Ideas- what is the poet trying to put across
  • Language- words and phrases used to make the poem more captivating
  • Imagery- what are the pictures conjured up
  • Structure- rhyme scheme, set out of poem
  • Poets' attitude/conclusion
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  • Created by: alex
  • Created on: 19-05-10 17:02


  • John Donne uses a layers approach, which is ruthlessly logical in order to get his point across that sex before marriage is harmless "This flea is you and I".
  • He introduces the idea of sex with the symbolisation of the "flea".
  • This is in order to show how harmless the flea is and how harmless his intentions are too.
  • He uses religious arguments in order to legitimise their relationship, "Cloistered". "temple", "marriage" and "sacrilege".
  • He tries to get the point across that you can still keep your honour whilst loosing your virginity.
  • All in all throughout this poem John Donne is trying to convince this women to have sex with him. He uses a variation of different arguments including religious, sexual, and dramatic. His main aim is to show how sex is just as harmless as a flea bite and that nothing is going to happen once they have sex.
  • During the 17th century the idea of sex was that it meant the mingling of blood, just how a the blood mingles inside a flea once it has take blood, this point is central to the argument.
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  • "The Flea", is an elaborate metaphor for how insignificant sex is. This analogy is used for effect to offer an argument (logical and intellectual), to prove a point
  • Repetition of "mark", in order to warn the women/reader to take note.
  • "It ****'d me first, and now ****s thee", suggestive and rude language, talking about the flea. Direct address-coloquial feel minimises voice of persuasion.
  • Line 4 is introducing the idea of sex through the flea
  • "pamper'd swells", double meaning mixing of blood in flea, and erection
  • religious symbolisation "cloistered".
  • "Purple thy nail, in blood of innocence?", personification, showing how harmless the idea of their blood mingling is. Along with "Except in that drop which it ****'d from thee?", they are rhetorical questions.
  • They are used in order to turn her argument around. He states loss of virginity is no worse then a flea bite. Killing the flea hasn't harmed them...therefore surrendering virginity will be equally painless.
  • Persuasive: overcomes coyness through argument
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  • An innocent flea, in which blood is mingled "and in this flea. our two bloods mingled be".
  • jealousy and regret "we would do", the image we get if that he is fed up of having to explain why they should have sex.
  • Dramatic argument- lovers actions are murderous and sacreligious as breaking the holy bond of marriage encapsulates in the flea.
  • "****'d" flea ****ing up blood from both the man and women
  • The poet is painting a picture that she is trying to "kill me", by not allowing herself to loose her "maidenhead".
  • sexual and religious imagery
  • The last stanza shows how the women has won and the poet is fed up as he tries to desperately salvage his argument.
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  • Cyclical argument- clever almost an intellectual exercise e.g the flea starts and ends as nothing. The poem begins and ends with the argument that surrendering verginity is a trivial matter.
  • Rhyme scheme is ABABCCDDD
  • Stanza 1 and 2 lady attempts to kill the flea
  • Stanza 2 and 3 she attempts again and manages to succeed.
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