From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Flea

The Flea


by John Donne

Analysis: Brain Snacks

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

The Black Death (or Bubonic Plague), a disease that wiped out about a third of Europeans around 1350, was carried by the "oriental rat flea," a parasite of black rats. Its scientific name is Xenopsylla cheopis (source).

What is it about the image of a flea biting a woman's pale flesh that turned certain male artists on? Images of fleas appear in several artistic works besides Donne's poem, including this eighteenth-century painting by Giuseppe Maria Crespi (source).

John Donne coined more new words in the English language than even Shakespeare. Click here to find out which two authors coined even more.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...