Finding Mind In Women; John Donne's "The Flea" and "Love's Alchemy" compared to Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"

Essay by longtimecomingCollege, UndergraduateB+, March 2007

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Common topics for poems throughout the ages include romance, seduction and women. Many male poets have written sonnets in which the speaker attempts to lure a woman into bed with him. Two notable examples of purveyors of such themes are John Donne and Andrew Marvell, who wrote their pieces in the early seventeenth century. Donne presents a notion of female intelligence in his poem, “Love’s Alchemy”, warning readers to “Hope not for mind in women” (23). The women in both writers’ works are generally resistant and coy when faced with the loss of their virginity. Thus, the purpose of the poetry is to present a convincing argument to the woman so that she will drop her defenses and give in. The language of seduction in Donne’s “The Flea”, and Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” undercut the statement “hope not for mind in women” by presenting examples of intelligent women who are not easy to convince.

Different seduction strategies work for different female characters. A highly emotional woman is likely to be swayed by a sentimental, expressive plea. A superficial woman requires appeals to her vanity; if you tell her she is beautiful, then she is yours. In the same way, a clever woman is likely to respond to sound intellectual reason. A woman of no “mind” is not able to defend herself mentally against a man’s persuasive arguments, and may be convinced in a variety of ways, as she cannot understand the way in which the man is manipulating her. On the other hand, a person who is intellectually fortified is impervious to gentle persuasion. If an outwardly logical point does not sway her decision, then it is reasonable to assume that she is either very stubborn (indicative of a strong personality at least, if not a...