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    Poems – ‘The flea’, ‘Let me not’ , and ‘My last duchess’ Essay

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    These three poems have a lot in common in the fact that some of the themes are the same, but each poem differs with content and atmosphere, along with some themes.

    John Donne’s ‘The Flea’ shows the poet trying to get his girlfriend to sleep with him by comparing his lust to a flea. Donne uses symbolic images and religious element to strengthen his argument. He starts by belittling the woman’s virginity by saying “How little that which thou deny’st me is”. The use of the word ‘little’ disparages her purity and religious views.

    Donne then says “It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee”. This use of a double entendre symbolises the flea sucking the blood, or it could mean another meaning in terms of a sex act.

    The main argument of the poem is explained in the next line when the poet says, “in this flea, our two bloods mingled be”. This shows the poets view that their bodily fluids have already been mixed in the flea, and so sexual intercourse would not be frowned upon as they are already combined.

    Still in the first stanza, the poet brings the first direct religious element into the poem. He writes “A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead”. This means that nobody would think of the act as any of these three. It will not be a sin or a shame. The poet has been clever here, as he also brings into the poem the power of the three. He uses three related subjects to add more persuasion into the poem.

    In the second stanza, the flea is still used as an extended metaphor to represent their shared bond or relationship. It also become related to their marriage bed or temple in which they were wed, as the poet says “Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is”. Here, Donne uses the mixing of body fluids to extend it beyond sexual intercourse, but says the flea’s body is where they were symbolically married. The use of the word ‘cloistered’ is a clever use of religious terminology that suggests the secretive and close bond they share within the confines of the body of the flea.

    In the final stanza, the woman has killed the flea. The poet uses exaggerated language in the form of hyperbole. The words “cruel and sudden” are used when the flea is dead. Killing a flea is not major, but the uses of the hyperbole makes it sound as though it was incredibly terrible, however these words could be seen as mock humour. The final argument provides a witty twist to the narrator’s argument. He states that if the woman slept with him, she would lose the same amount of honour by that act as she lost life by killing the flea.

    ‘Let me not’ by William Shakespeare is traditionally in the sonnet form. Shakespeare talks about true love that lasts forever between two loving people. The first line involves “the marriage of true mind”. This means the joining of kindred spirits or soul mates, and is used in a strong term for an everlasting love. Shakespeare continues with “love is not love which alters when alteration finds”, which shows how Shakespeare thought marriage or true love should not be prevented in any possible way. It also means that love transcends any change, as it cannot be altered by it. Shakespeare also uses the words “an ever fixed marke”, implying the permanent fixture that is love. This could be seen as hyperbole, as it adds grandeur to the description of love.

    Shakespeare continues with the idea of permanence throughout the sonnet. Another example is “Lov’s not Times foole”, again showing eternal life for love. The poem ends with a clever remark “If this be error and upon me proved I never writ, nor no man ever loved”. This means that is this poem is proved wrong than Shakespeare never wrote the poem and no man has ever loved. This shows the confidence of Shakespeare in what he feels, as he definitely wrote the poem, so it must be true, according to the last two lines.

    ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning is about the Duke talking about a portrait of his last Duchess. The fact that this is his latest Duchess shows that he may have had many other women. The Duchess is found out to have been killed by the Duke at the end of the poem and the Duke begins arranging a new marriage immediately.

    The poem starts with the Duke unveiling the portrait of his Duchess to a visitor. He calls the portrait a ‘wonder’ and says ‘The depth and passion of that earnest glance’. The poet has included this as it shows her promiscuity and that she does not discriminate.

    The poet also repeats “spot of joy” a few times, which implies that the woman could be hiding something, or she could be slightly flustered after sexual activities.

    The line “all and each would draw from her alike” again shows the fact that she does not categorize or discriminate.

    The Duke also reveals stuff about himself. His arrogance is shown by the line “I choose never to stoop” and his power is shown by “all smiles stop together”. This shows the influence he has on others and could imply that he never really loved the Duchess.

    The reader is then drawn to pity for the Dukes next wife, because it seems inevitable that his new wife will face the same fate as his ‘last Duchess’.

    When comparing these three poems, I can see a few differences. The first being the themes. Clearly, “The Flea” deals with the ideas of lust and seduction, along with time. “Let me not” deals, also, with the idea of time, but this poem involves true love and not lust. It also has a sense of eternalness and permanence. The final poem “My Last Duchess”, again deals with time, but this poem shows the darker side of love, and therefore one of the themes here is of a macabre sense.

    All three poems deal with time. The poet of “The Flea” tries to hurry his girlfriend into sleeping with him; Shakespeare talks about love lasting forever, and the Duke in “My Last Duchess” rushes into another marriage.

    The atmosphere in each poem is different as well. “The flea” has a very calm, yet rushed and seductive mood, which the poet uses to his advantage. “Let me not, however, it a more serious and traditional rendition of love, and “My Last Duchess” shows a more darker side of thing people do in marriage. These poems differ a lot in terms of the atmosphere.

    The language of the poems varies with each one. John Donne uses a lot of rhetoric skill and persuasion in his poem, using the rule of the three as well. There are also religious elements added in and slight hints at hyperbole. There is a strong rhyme scheme that goes like AABBCCDDD. Shakespeare’s “Let me not” involves a great deal of hyperbole. He uses a lot of exaggerated language to show what love really is. He also uses a few idea of personification of love and time. The rhyme scheme in this poem follows the pattern that every other line rhymes. The pattern is ABABCDCDEFEFGG Browning’s poem uses a strong rhyming scheme where every line rhymes with the next in a continuous AABBCCDD pattern.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Poems – ‘The flea’, ‘Let me not’ , and ‘My last duchess’ Essay. (2017, Oct 24). Retrieved from

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