John Donne was one of the remarkable figures of Elizabethan poets, who really do not have the spirit of the time in him. He broke away from the Elizabethan tradition and revolted against the easy, fluent style, stock imagery and pastoral convention of the Spenserians. He made startling innovations in the matter and form of poetry. What distinguishes him from the great Elizabethans is the character of his conceits and wits.
Donne has used metaphysical conceits in almost all his poems. They are not only novel but are quite relevant and throw a flood of light on the chosen themes. In the flea, Donne uses a flea which has bitten both lovers as the basic reference for his argument against the lady’s coyness. Donne uses a different style for his love poems; totally poles apart from that of his contemporaries, who in their love poetry, made everywoman either goddess or an unreal personification of chastity. His love poetry is a more complex. In ‘The Flea ‘also Donne searches intellectual equivalence of emotion.
The Flea appears to be a love poem in which the male repudiates to succumb to his immodest desires. He compels a woman to give up her virginity through arguing that they are already united in a ‘flea’. The physical unification which he demands from the other is not a momentous event since the real union has taken place. Thus the writer tries to belittle the action of seduction and shows that it is not a big deal. Since the blood of the male and the lady are united there is nothing more than a seduction there. It cannot be considered as a loss of virginity.”
“And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin , nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead;”
As we proceed, we see that the woman is hesitant to such a love making and considers seduction as a series thing unlike the author. This is typical seventeenth century characteristic of a woman. It is true that in a male dominated society like that of Donne’s to preserve once virginity is not a trivial thing. The state of being virgin is considered as a sacred thing especially in e religious society. There were a lot of young woman during that period who sacrificed their lives for virginity. Donne stresses this point through the second stanza of the poem when she rejects his proposal through the killing of the flea.
“Let not to that self murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three”
The distinction between the male and female attitudes towards sex and seduction is clearly depicted through the two characters of the poem. If the male demean sex by comparing it with that of the bite of a flea, the female opposes this by the killing of the same flea. Thus she also destroys her desires within herself. But the poet considers the act of killing the flea as a sin because she destroys the life of the three by the action which is against the true belief.
The woman in Donne’s Flea enjoys the pain of keeping her virginity. The poet tries to unravel the dominance presented over woman and also his preservance to sexuality.
Spark Note on Donne’s Poetry, ‘SparkNotes.com.SparkNotesLLC.2002.Web .2. June 2010.