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Comparison of Shakespeare’s and Donne’s Works Essay

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2022

Historically, William Shakespeare and John Donne are among the famous poets. In his Sonnet, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day Shakespeare carefully describes the physical body of his woman. He uses figurative language to draw a perfect picture of his lover. On the other hand, in his poem the flea, Donne uses images to seduce his partner. Authentically, nature or environment correlates with life, beauty and success. The two poets apply a persuasive tone to induce seductive or erotic feelings in their lovers. Although the two poems highlight the theme of love, structurally they present some differences and similarities as expounded in the next discussion.

Both playwrights use a persuasive tone to seduce their lovers. For example, Donne struggles to impress and convince his lover to forgo her virginity for the sake of their love. Historically, a woman who upheld virginity until marriage had high integrity. However, Donne’s aim is to persuade his partner to break a culture and face the shame from the society. Intuitively, he perceives it will not happen. The playwright compares their love to the life of a flea. Donne belittles her womanhood (virginity) when he tries to evoke guilt in his lover by saying, “How little that which thou deniest me” (stanza 1 line 2). According to him, the flea has mixed their blood bonding them into one person. Surprisingly, he says, “Where we almost, nay more than married are” (stanza 1 line 11) yet they are not. He throws challenges to his partner by saying that through the flea they have already consummated their relationship, which is a sexual sin. Furthermore, he asserts that intimacy will not defy their purity but rather strengthen their relationship. Alluding from religion, he tells the lover that he is suffering, which is against monastery teachings. Donne applies both visual objects and religion to change the mind of his lover.

Unfortunately, the woman remains adamant holding on to her rules. Eventually, she decides to kill the flea. However, Donne enlightens her that this will not break their relationship, love or bond or cause pain in his heart. More over, Donne indirectly threatens his lover because according to him, she will still be honorable and respectful if she consummates their relationship. In addition, he carefully chooses his words to arouse sexual feelings in his partner. Unluckily, the partner‘s decision to adore her culture motivates her to turn down all his advances.

Similarly, Shakespeare use of flattering words to describe his partner is to compel or persuade her to love him. Like Donne, he applies the persuasive tone to evoke romantic feelings in his partner. He uses the sun and clouds to describe her beauty and elegance. According to the playwright, his partner’s youthfulness will stay forever, which is not true because beauty fades with age. To persuade her more, he immortalizes her body, which is unreal. However, the decision to accord her eternity is not only to show his love for her but also to prove that she will be in his memory as years pass by. More over, their love relationship is stable mainly because of her beauty. Therefore, the woman will definitely accept him after hearing pleasant remarks from him. Due to the use of persuasive tone, the feelings of the woman will automatically revolve around romance and intimacy. The poet uses nature to build an appealing image of his lover. Through his choice of words, he builds her into a perfect, beautiful and attractive woman who every man will admire. He uses natural things like sun, clouds and wind to describe or present his lover. Nature is immortal and never changes but Shakespeare compares it with his woman. Every woman loves a man who adores her, a tactic Shakespeare applies in his love poem.

On the other hand, although both Shakespeare and Donne use imagery as poetic elements, the choice of comparative objects/elements leads to some differences in the poems. In Donne’s poem, the first image he uses is the flea. When the flea bites both of them, he assumes it has bonded their relationship. The flea is a tiny witty creature that survives on human blood. Similarly, sexual intimacy is a small action that human beings should enjoy for their survival. Therefore, Donne compares the lifestyle of a flea with intimacy. The second image he alludes from is religion. He symbolically compares their sexual relationship with the monastery. According to the religion, a woman should not deny a man his conjugal rights. He also relates their relationship to a temple, which is a symbol of religion. Donne uses the temple to show the usefulness of sex in their relationship. If his partner is strictly religious then she should accept him. The third image is the human blood, which is a sacred liquid. People use blood to take oaths. Therefore, when the flea mixes their blood, it makes them inseparable consummating their love. In his last attempt to persuade the lover to become intimate with him, he relates her virginity with murder/death. Donne portrays that murder does not correlate with honor and therefore, the sexual act will keep her honor.

On the contrary, the images Shakespeare uses to portray the same message to his lover differ completely. The first image is summer or sun. During summer, the sun is bright and it portrays life and happiness. Furthermore, although the brightness of the sun may change, her beauty will never change. Therefore, Shakespeare means the beauty of his lover is beyond description. The second image is wind, which disrupts the peacefulness of flowers. Rough wind represents life obstacles and struggles. Some of the obstacles, which may interfere with beauty, include hardships, diseases and fights. However, Shakespeare asserts that the physical features of his lover are permanent. Therefore, nothing rough or unpleasant can alter the beauty.

In brief, both Shakespeare and Donne use a persuasive tone to elicit romantic feelings in their lovers. While Donne carefully highlights the advantages and importance of sexual intimacy between lovers, Shakespeare decides to give a vivid description of his lover’s body to arouse her. Their tones are appealing to both the audience and the owner of the poem. The playwrights also use imagery in their poems. Although the images differ from one poem to another, they highlight the theme of love by using figurative language. Donne uses the flea, religion, death or murder among others to relate to their love life especially the sexual act. Therefore, he applies nature to convince his partner to accept him. On the contrary, Shakespeare uses the various elements of weather to describe the beauty of his lover. Through his description, he proves his immense attraction towards his lover.

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