For this essay I am going to compare and contrast two poems i have selected. The two poems i chose to write about are “ My Mistress” by Williams Shakespeare and “ The Flea” by John Donne. I am going to describe how both these poems are similar to each other even though they were written in different time periods. I am also going to describe their differences as well. I am first going to begin by describing the poem by william Shakespeare who wrote “my mistress”.
In the poem William Shakespeare states “If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head”(Sparknotes, n.d.) he is talking about how the wire on her head was black rather than gold. He continues to write “I have seen roses damasked, red and white”(Sparknotes, n.d.) which is saying he doesn’t see red in her cheeks.
According to the author he states “And in some pérfumes is there more delight. Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks”.
(Sparknotes, n.d.) Clearly he is saying his mistresses odor isn’t pleasant to what the standards are supposed to be to other people. When he writes “I love to hear her speak, yet well I know that music hath a far more pleasing sound”(Sparknotes, n.d.) . His mistress voice isn’t the most interesting sound to listen to. In the end of the poem he writes “I grant I never saw a goddess go; 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”(Sparknotes, n.d.) . He is saying he has never seen a goddess before but he is as blunt as they come to his mistress not being this perfect person that others portray their mistresses to be.
Now I am going to start describing the second poem I picked “The Flea” by John Donne, the flea stands as a symbol of love between a man and a woman on whether to have sex before marriage. The man is frazzled that the women is denying him of sex and is overanalyzing it by thinking she would be less of a woman if she did. The author states “That through the flea they are already mingled, because of the fact the flea has sucked his blood and her blood, therefore, bringing them together”. Since the flea has already brought them together by sharing of both of their blood, any intimate action afterwards cannot be sinful or shameful. The author states “The flea has bonded them together in a stronger way because of the lack of physical intimacy between them”. The flea through its action without thinking has shared a deeper emotional connection between the two of them .
During the time period this poem was written 1600s-1700s, the demeanor of most people were conservative, therefore having sexual intercourse before marriage was a serious issue. The conflict of this poem is that the man wants to have sex with his significant other before getting married, and she doesn’t. She respects herself and her family and their beliefs, she also respects the beliefs of the rest of society during that time period. The man’s ideology is that the flea is their marriage bed and has already bonded them together. When his partner moves to kill the flea he asks that she spares his life. Therefor his beloved kills the flea to which he attests that neither of them are less noble for killing the flea ( which has stood as the symbol for premarital sex). Therefore if she choose to sleep with him before marriage she would lose no more honor than she would’ve by killing the flea.
As his lover moves forward to kill the flea, the speaker stays her hand, asking her to spare all three of their lives . In the flea, he says “where their blood is mingled, they are almost married—no, more than married—and the flea is their marriage bed and marriage temple mixed into one”. Even though she will not make love to him,they are still united as one. According to the author “She is apt to kill him, he says, but he asks that she not kill herself by killing the flea that contains her blood”; The author continues to say “That to kill the flea would be sacrilege, three sins in killing three.” “Cruel and sudden,” the speaker calls his lover, who has now killed the flea, “purpling” her fingernail with the “blood of innocence.”
The speaker asks his lover what the flea’s sin was,. His lover replies “That neither of them is less noble for having killed the flea”. “It is true”, he says, and “it is this very fact that proves that her fears are false:” If she were to sleep with him she wouldn’t lose any more honor than she lost when she killed the flea. Now that I gave a background of these two poems I am going to describe the similarities I see between both of them.The reason that I see these two poems are similar is that they are both love stories in a way . Showing a lot of affection towards their lovers. In the poem “ my mistress” he explains that she is not the most attractive woman out there and he describes her imperfections. He describes her in a way that others do not tend to describe their mistresses to be like. Shakespeare shows the realness in his poem showing that his mistress is not as perfect as others make theirs seem but she is still “perfect” to him.
While in the poem “the flea” John Donne explains how the love and compassion he and his lover have for one another is already the same as having sex before marriage. Using a flea sucking blood from each of them to symbolize the bond that they have. Since their blood is both mixed into the flea they are already formed as one. I think the flea is a little deeper from just the metaphor he used. Whereas in Shakespeare’s metaphor it is more reasonable and relatable. They are also similar because both these men are showing their desires for these women and there sexual tendencies toward them. In a way both these women are perfect in both these mens eyes. They both explain their desires for these women and how they portray them. In a way, i see both these men craving there significant other. Basically, for these two poems both these authors explain their “love” for these women. And they are both similar in a way by how these poems were constructed. They both were written in with the same vocabulary and in old english poetry.
Now that I spoke about there similarities I am going to describe how both of these poems are also different. In shakespeare poem his love life is not that great since he has a mistress that is talking about and has to do with adultery. Where for John he writes about his lover and how he wants to make love with her before marriage. Although he isn’t having sexual relations with his lover they still have a great bond. Another difference is that shakespeare is in lust with this mistress because he has a wife.
In conclusion I gave a summary of both these poems I chose to write about. Both these poems have to do with love for their women. They both describe what it is like to be in love with their significant other. Both these poems were also constructed in the same way they both use the same vocabulary and they were written in old english poetry. They are different in a way that shakespeare is not in love with his mistress. He is more on the lust side than love considering that he has a wife that he is cheating on. For john he is in love and his bond with his girlfriend is still good whether they are having sexual interactions or not. Reading these two poems shows the desires they have for their lover but at the same time different.