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Poem “Flea”

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    The Flea is a poem written and published in the late 16th century by John Donne. The erotic poem uses the complex behavior of a flee to draw a comparison between man and woman. Despite the explicit underlying sexual themes that the poem explores, Donne depicts the 17th-century society eloquently with his poem.

    The poem, in its entirety, alternates between an iambic tetrameter, a line of eight syllables of unstressed and stressed syllables and two iambic pentameters, a line with five sets of syllables. The poem has four supporting arguments that are arranged into three couplets and one triplet. This serves to help the reader keep track of Donne’s argument. The first stanza holds the ideas loosely in couplets and with the later stanzas organizing the reasonings more efficiently.

    At the time of this writing, fleas were considered a form of dark humor. At the time, England and the rest of Europe were recovering from the effects of the Bubonic plague’s onslaught on society two centuries ago. In the first line, Donne directs his beloved to the flea, and he uses an apostrophe to communicate to the readers. By line 8 of the first stanza, he personifies the flea by suggesting that the flea is pampered and is enjoying the blood from the flesh of both Donne and his beloved. Additionally, he also shows a sense of jealousy as he points out that he was denied enjoyment of her bodily fluids which the flea did not refrain from doing. On the 10th line of the poem, he makes a bold claim that the flee holds the lives of him, his beloved and itself.

    The fleas also served as the subject that the Donne used to justify the need to have sex with his beloved Within the first stanza of the poem, he compares the behavior of the flee and how it has bitten both him and his wife and claims that their blood has intermingled within the flea. In addition to that, Donne presents himself as a naughty boy that tries to be rash and rude. (Add line from the poem) This line vividly illustrates that the author wants to partake in having the woman’s body. Moreover, he claims that the flee has committed an act that he wants to do to the woman. And by the third and final stanza, on lines 26 and 27, he reiterates his desires and uses his wit too. (insert lines from the line) From this, he uses a simile that compares the life that she took from the flea to preserve her life to the preservation of her honor once she gives in to his demands.

    Although the poem’s story focuses on Donne’s continuous persistence to persuade his beloved to have sex, the poem draws attention to religion. The flea transforms from a pest to a religious symbol. On line 4, the flea has taken the blood from both the author and his wife. This symbolizes the mixing of bloodlines when two parties procreate and indulge themselves to having sex. In the second stanza, on line 10, the idea that the flea holds the lives of three serves as a metaphor that alludes to the Holy Trinity – where the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are in one embodiment. From line 11 to 15 of the poem, their marriage is highlighted and serves as an extended metaphor on the topic of mixing bloodlines. Furthermore, the flea is compared to a church and that the woman and her parents wouldn’t approve of the activity that the author intends to engage in.

    Despite the erotic nature of the poem, several important themes were addressed effectively about the 17th century. The role and power that men and women served in making decisions. The author’s wits and argument served as the key point in illustrating the underlying motives that the author had and how he viewed his beloved. Furthermore, there is a stark contrast and a twist that exemplified that the primary decision between the two characters to induce love depended solely on the lady of the story. The author is viewed as a powerless intellectual. Even though he drew arguments of marriage, bloodlines, and religion through the embodiment of the flea, Donne is unable to convince the member of the fair to have physical intimacy. And despite his warnings to not kill the flea, the woman kills the flea of her own free will.

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    Poem “Flea”. (2022, Mar 16). Retrieved from

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