Analysis of "John Donne's" "The Flea"

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Phillip Hassoun
English 1102
Analysis: The Flea, By: John Donne
Most of John Donne’s work during his time frame was usually seen as being vulgar or too much, usually for the sexual themes he put behind them. But being the witty and clever author John Donne was, it is by no surprise that most people raise their eye brows after reading his poem titled The Flea. In the poem, he makes the unusual connection between a flea and sex between couples. Using a metaphysical conceit, the poem is written using that relationship in mind, which today most people would see as kind of funny or odd. In this unique comparison, he ultimately try’s to persuade his beloved to become fearless of the consequences in pre-marital sex. It is important to understand the use of metaphysical writing, and how it enabled writers like John Donne to write so well about two very seemingly different things.

When the term metaphysical is used, it is referring to a very powerful form of philosophy dating back to Aristotle. It is used to explain something usually complex in simple to understand terms, by making a comparison. One does this by asking themselves two questions; what is there? And what’s it like? These two questions lead the person into a higher level thinking proses, which usually end up in a form of descriptive writing like parables and poems to add ever more understanding and emotion to the thought. This is how authors like John Donne can write of comparisons between something simple like a flea, and something as complex as the emotions we feel. However, the poem to most people today would still not make sense. But when considering the knowledge and ethics of the people during his time frame, this poem makes much more sense.

When John Donne’s 16th century love poem was written, it was believed that when two people had sex, the partners would share each other’s blood. Also hygiene wasn’t a very big issue, since it wasn’t common knowledge to know that...
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