The Flea - John Donne


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John Donne and an Analysis
of "The Flea"


     John Donne was born on Bread Street, London, in 1572. His family was very rich but they were Roman Catholic, not the best group to be a part of at his time, in England. He studied three years at the University of Oxford and three years at Cambridge. He never got a degree because he refused to take the oath of supremacy at graduation time. He then studied law and was on his way to be a diplomat. He wrote a book of poems, Satires, after his brother died of fever in prison after offering sanctuary to a proscribed catholic priest. He then wrote a series of love poems in Songs and Sonnets. In 1596, he joined a naval campaign against Spain and when he came back, 2 years later, he became secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton.

Just as he started doing well, he secretly married Egerton's niece, Anne More, and when discovered, he was thrown in jail along with the two friends who had helped in his secret relationship. Anne's family helped them and a few years later, Donne reconciliated with Sir Thomas and was finally given the dowry he was owed. He lived the next few years as a lawyer and lived a poor existence. He then wrote two anti-Catholic poems that got him the king's favor and started working Sir Robert Drury of Hawstead, who gave him an appartment in his castle for writing a beautiful eulogy for his 15 year old daughter. Donne and his wife had 12 children, 7 of which survived and in 1617, Anne died at age 33, while giving birth to a stillborn child. He wrote the Holy Sonnets. He was made vicar in 1625 but suffered from severe infections of the mouth which caused his death in 1931. He would've become a bishop in 1930. Before his death, he preached his own funeral sermon, Death's Duel. His last piece was The Hymn to God, my God, in my sicknesse.

Donne is a very witty poet. In The Flea, like in many other poems, he tries to convince a young woman to sleep with him. He compares giving up her virginity her virginity to the size of a flea go show how "unimportant" it is. "It suck'd me first and now sucks thee" is used in the first stanza to argue that because their bloods are mixed inside the flea, they are married and therefore, making love would not be a sin.

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In the second stanza, the young woman wants to kill the flea but he stops her because in destroying the flea, she is really destroying three lives: his, hers and the flea's, "three sins in killing three". . He also says that their union is alive inside the flea and that killing the flea would destroy it. The woman doesn't listen and kills the flea anyway.

Finally, in the third stanza, he argues that the flea didn't deserve to die and that she should feel ashamed and weak. He makes what she did see, like an evil deed and says thay sleeping with him is a similar sin, an unimportant one.


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