John Donne Demeaning To Women Essay

1446 words - 6 pages


Is the poetry of John Donne demeaning to women? Several issues must be considered when debating whether John Donne was a male chauvinist. The time period in which he penned his poetry, as well as the point in his life during which certain poems were written, must all be taken into consideration.
It is also very important to keep in mind the roles of women in the seventeenth century and how they were perceived by men at that time. Women during the seventeenth century were not considered to be man’s equal, and were often perceived as merely property or objects. Women did not have the right to speak out, or to be educated. They ...view middle of the document...

” So much for romance!
Donne’s words describe his desire at that time, and reflect the thoughts of a typical healthy younger man. Surely he is more interested in the physical aspects of a relationship at this point in his life, rather than the deeper emotional bond he comes to share with his wife when he grows older.
The question, therefore, as to whether the younger Donne was demeaning to women arises. The answer is simply “no.” Donne clearly comes across as the average hot-blooded late teen/early twenties young man with raging hormones. It is doubtful that he meant any insult to his young lover, but rather, in his own special way, attempted to flatter her to win her good favors.
As Donne becomes more mature, the tone of his poems appears to change. His later poems reflect his emotional feelings toward his wife Anne, as opposed to his physical attraction. Donne writes of unconditional, true love, and how all he and his wife need are each other in the world.
It is evident that the Donnes shared a very physical and active sexual relationship based on the fact that his wife bore him twelve children in a sixteen year period. His poetry clearly proves that he worshipped the ground she walked on.
The Good Morrow is a perfect example of Donne’s love for his wife. The most romantic question, “What did I do before I loved you,” is evident throughout it. Donne goes on to say that all that matters is that they are together. Most admirable is that he treats his lover as an equal - “Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.” Clearly this is in stark contrast to the norm of the day.
Perhaps a greater example of the love Donne had for his wife can be seen in The Canonization. Here, he makes his love for his wife known to everyone. Donne describes a tantric sort love; that is, a love so deep that it is not only reached on a physical level, but spiritual one as well.
The historical fact that Donne does not remarry after the death of his wife only adds credence to the claim that his poetry reflects the true feelings which he felt toward Anne. Even after her death, Donne worships her and mourns her greatly. The 17th Holy Sonnet is a prime example of how deeply he misses her, and how he will not love another.
Taking into consideration the time period in which Donne’s poems were written, as well as the point of time in his life, it does not appear that his writings were meant to demean women. The poems, rather, reflect his true feelings toward his significant other. That being said, how would his writings be interpreted today? Would Donne be considered a male chauvinist in 2009?
Times have drastically changed since the seventeenth century. People live longer, obtaining a divorce is no longer shunned, and women are much more independent. Women can think for themselves, unlike their sisters in the seventeenth century, and they do not have to depend on a man for their livelihood. Women...

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