The poets John Donne, Andrew Marvell and William Shakespeare all use numerous different devices to seduce their audiences. Some of the techniques employed are similar between the poets, but there are also differences. The poem ‘The Flea’ is a metaphysical poem, using metaphysical conceit to persuade the audience. In the poem the ‘flea’ could be understood as an extended metaphor for virginity, ‘how little that which thou deniest me’ The poet could be likening the flea’s size to the importance of her virginity, in order to convince his audience that the loss of virginity is not a big deal.
Donne tells his audience that ‘in this flea our too bloods mingled be’. And that ‘this cannot be said a sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead’. The poet could be suggesting that his audience can’t say that what the flea has done is a sin, and she has now lost her virginity, so her loosing her virginity to him would also not be a sin.
There is also mention of ‘Pamper’d swells with one blood made of two’, which could be a suggestion of a child. A child is born from two parents or is ‘one blood made of two’. The poet says that the flea is doing. ‘More than we would do’.
The poet is trying to say the flea has already joined them together, but it is an act which they should partake in. Donne says to spare the flea because ‘three lives in one flea spare’.
He could be saying that by sparing the flea he is saving his life his audience’s life and the flea’s life, as their blood has been muddled together in the flea. He claims that they ‘more than married are’ and the flea is their ‘marriage bed, and marriage temple’. Donne is saying that because they are both ‘in’ the flea that they are beyond married, they are intertwined.
The poet could be trying to flatter his audience, by saying that they are beyond marriage, suggesting a very deep connection between the two. Donne try’s to make their relationship seem of a metaphysical nature as their ‘parents grudge, and you, we’re met, and cloister’d in these living walls of jet’ He could be telling his audience that, although there are all these things hindering their relationship, such as parents grudging against their romance or her unwillingness to make love to him, they are nevertheless, united inside the walls of the flea.
He asks her, although she is ‘apt to kill me’, do not kill yourself ‘let not self murder added be. And sacrilege, three sins in killing three’, he is repeating himself telling her not to kill the flea as it is killing him, her and the flea its self. This repetition may be used to convince her that it is the case. The poet calls his lover ‘cruel and sudden’ because he has ‘purpled thy nail in blood of innocence’ and killed the flea. His lover says ‘find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now’, neither of them are have lost honour by killing the flea.
Donne agrees and argues ‘just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me, will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee’. Donne is summarising the argument of the whole poem, saying that she will loose as much honour form sleeping with him as she did when she killed the flea. Throughout the poem Donne uses the flea as an extended metaphor for the virginity of his lover, in size and importance. Similarly in ‘To his Coy Mistress’, Andrew Marvell all so employs the technique of metaphysical conceit.
Marvell is trying to persuade a lover to sleep with him. If “Had we but world enough and time, this coyness lady would be no crime’. The poet is suggesting that if we had all the time in the world, his lover’s unwillingness would not frustrate him so. He may be trying to win over his lover, buy suggesting she has done no wrong. He try’s to flatter her by saying they would ‘sit down and think which way to walk, and pass our long love days’ He tells her she is ‘the Indian Ganges’ side shouldst rubies find’ and that he is the ‘Humber’.
This could be another form of flatter, and he is telling her that she is as exotic and exciting as the river Ganges, and compared to her, he is antithesis, the uninteresting Humber. He tells her he would ‘Love you ten years before the flood’. This could be referring to Noah’s ark, this may be him trying to demonstrate his intelligence, because of his knowledge of the bible, he could also be saying that he would lover her forever, or at least a very long time. He tells her she ‘should, if you please, refuse till the conversion of the Jews’ which in bible is the end of time.
He is again showing his intelligence to his lover, and is also saying how everlasting his love is. Marvell flatters his lover by saying ‘a hundred years should go to praise thine eyes’ and ‘two hundred to adore each breast’ and ‘an age at least to every part’. The poet describes vast amounts of time, because he knows that their time is not everlasting. Marvell dignifies his previous statements with ‘for, lady, you deserve this state, nor would I ever love at a lower rate’ he is saying to her that he could never lover her any less and she only deserves the highest amount of love.
By using the word ‘lady’ he makes all his statements sound more dignified and ‘proper’. In the second stanza Marvell explains why he cannot do all those things he said in the first stanza. ‘I always hear, time’s winged chariot hurrying near’ he tells his lover that death is drawing near, and they are running out of time. Marvell may have personified time to make it sound more real, or so it would connect more with his lover. The theme of a chariot comes from roman and Greek mythology, which again shows Marvell’s intelligence. He says to his lover that when she is dead her ‘beauty shall no more be found’.
He could be suggesting that she should not waste her beauty when she is alive. He also tells her ‘nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound my echoing song’. He says that when she is dead he will not be able to hear his flattery anymore. Marvell is could be using the image of death to scare his lover into have a sexual relationship with her. Marvell then frightens her further by suggesting that ‘worms shall try that long preserv’d virginity’, when a person in buried, worms decapitate the corpse, Marvell is likening this to losing her virginity, and say what is the point in keeping it, if when you die worms will take it?
There is also a hint of sarcasm in that statement, as if Marvell was trying to convince his lover that a ‘long preserv’d virginity’ was a silly idea. He tells her ‘your quaint honour will turn to dust, and into ashes all my lust’. He is frightening his audience but implying that her honour will be taken anyway, and why waste all his lusting after her. Also the word ‘quaint’ has modern day connotations of a vulgar term for the female genitalia, so that statement is a play on words. He also tells her that ‘the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace’.
He scares her by saying that there is no love in the grave, and if you want the love from him take it now. In the third Stanza Marvell explains why she should give her virginity up now. ‘Now, therefore while the youthful hue sits on the skin’ Marvell is telling her to do it now, buy using the word now at the beginning of the stanza and throughout it, he also is telling her to do it now while they are both still young and beautiful. ‘let us sport while we may, and now like am’rous birds of prey’ He tells her that they should do it while they are still physically fit and that if she does her experience will be wild as birds of prey .
Marvell is now trying convince his lover with wondrous promises and the logic that they should do it while they are still physically able. ‘Let us roll up all our strength and all our sweetness into one ball’. Spheres represent a continuous connection and perfect unity. ‘And tear our pleasures with rough strife through the iron gates of life’ the rough strife refers to the sexual act and the gates of life are representative of the female genitalia. This is an example of the ‘Carpe Diem’ ideal, which was popular at the time the poem was written.
Carpe Diem means to seize the day or harvest the day, by doing what you want as life is too short to miss opportunities. In the context of To His coy mistress, this meant for his lover to succumb to his seduction. To end the poem Marvell moves away from talk referring to sex. ‘Thus, though we cannot make our son stand still, yet we will make him run’. He is telling his lover that though he cannot stop time, they will be preserved in time with they have sex. This poem is a carpe diem poem, which means ‘to seize the day’. Marvell wants his lover to seize the day and not wait any longer to have sex with him.
Conversely to ‘The flea’ and ‘To his Coy Mistress’, Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare does not try to flatter to his lover but says you are not perfect but I love you just as much or more than the poets that say their lovers are perfect. ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’ Shakespeare is already in a relationship with this woman, and he is concentrating on her physical features, which fall short of the fashionable beauty at the time. ‘If snow be white then her breasts are dun’ she may be black or have dark skin, which was unusual at the time.
Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 relies heavily on highlighting his lover’s imperfections. By doing this Shakespeare conveys to his audience that his love is far more than physical. ‘If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head’ this supports the idea his lover is black, it is also the antithesis of the stereotyped maiden, with long soft blonde hair. ‘I love to hear her speak yet well I know that music hath a far more pleasing sound’, Shakespeare is realistic in his description of his mistress, and shows he appreciates her, but does not lie.
The poet describes his lover’s breath with words such as ‘reek’, which have negative connotations. Satirical comments like this are employed throughout the poem, and are a deliberate contrast with the other poetry fashionable at the time. ‘My mistress when she walks treads on the ground and yet by heaven I think my love as rare as any she belied with false compare’ He is telling her he loves her just as much as a woman who has been lied to or flattered about their looks. These last lines are meant to demonstrate Shakespeare’s love for his mistress and to squander any doubts that had aroused in his lover from the pervious comments.
In this poem Shakespeare’s sonnet 130 contrasts with conventional poetry and breaks all the rules, he explains that she has faults but he loves her because of or in spite of them. The language he uses suggests honesty and persuades his audience to believe what he says. From an overall perspective it is apparent that flattery was the most popular form of persuasion at the time, however Sonnet 130 demonstrates how alternative devices such as honesty and satyr can be used to the same effect.