John Donne: Poems

Male-centric vs. Universal Views 12th Grade

Donne’s primary target audience was a select cluster of male friends as opposed to a universal one, meaning that some poems such as ‘The Flea’ and ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’ are compelling as allow us insight into a particular male-centric perspective of attitudes towards women in a Jacobean context rather than due to any universal appeal. Similarly, ‘Batter My Heart’ as centered around a particular Christian vision refuses to remain universal. Nonetheless, the emotional extremes- from deep love to intense fear- entertained throughout Donne’s verse allow the poems to remain compelling due to their universality.

Whilst the speaker’s attempt in ‘The Flea’ to seduce an unwilling mistress is certainly an action familiar to many forlorn lovers across the globe, the heightened misogyny and unusual conceit of a ‘flea’ are anything but universal in their peculiarity. Indeed, the speaker’s desires to sleep with his lover are foregrounded through a series of declaratives signified by stressed verbs such as ‘Mark’ and ‘stay’ used to coax the woman into acquiescing with the speaker’s demand for sex. The poet’s use of an even AABBCCDDD rhyme scheme whilst might suggest the speaker’s certainty in his sexual allure, more likely becomes a...

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