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A Comparison of John Donne's "The Flea" and Robert Browning's "My...

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A Comparison of John Donne's "The Flea" and Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess".

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  • April 13, 2003
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"The Flea" who haunts "My Last Duchess"

History has blessed the English language with many great romanticists; they were men and sometimes woman who had an affinity for describing the glories of love. Yet in the midst of such uninhibited amorousness, they were a select few who chose to write about the seamier side of romance. It was these works which perhaps best represented the complexities of the male-female relationships of the time. Although written more than two hundred years apart, both "The Flea" by John Donne and "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning, examine the selfishness and lustful ambitions which often hamper a man's ability to achieve true love.

As the reader is introduced to the protagonist of John Donne's "The Flea", it becomes clear that his only romantic tendencies are fueled from below the beltline. Lines such as "It sucked me first, and now it sucks thee, and in this flea, our two bloods mingled be" (3-4) sound more like the plot to a 1950's horror movie, then a testament to true love. The narrator reasoning for writing this poem is to convince the female object of his admiration that since there blood is mixed inside of a flea, it would not be a sin to mix other more sexual fluids. It is quite possible that the protagonist of the "The Flea" was one of the inventors of the cheesy pick-up line.

Much like the Narrator in "The Flea", The Duke from Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" is a man whose love is hardly pure because it is fueled mostly by greed and shallowness. As the Duke marvels over the painting of his late wife on the wall, he seems to be more impressed with the artistry of the painter, then with celebrating the memory of the woman who was once his bride. "That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands worked busily a day, and there she stands" (3-4). The Duke seems almost as happy with a painting, as he was with a living breathing wife, because the painting represents all he found attractive about his wife, and nothing he...