Study Guide

A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body Suffering

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Woe, Woe, Woe is me (the soul) and me (the body). Welcome to the pity party, Shmoopers. "A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body" has got four stanzas of nonstop one-upping of who suffers more. Physical confinement and bodily pain? Or emotional torment and the capacity to sin? If you can't pick sides yet, at least you can dig deeper into the larger purpose of suffering, its effects on quality of life both physical and emotional, and the possibility of escaping it. Or could The Princess Bride be right? Is life really pain?

Questions About Suffering

  1. What's worse: emotional pain or physical pain? Which convinces you more about this question, the soul or the body? Why?
  2. Who do you feel sorrier for, the body or the soul? Why?
  3. Is suffering necessary for both Soul and Body? Why or why not?
  4. Why doesn't Marvell take a stand on who suffers more in this bargain?

Chew on This

And the winner is… Soul! Physical pain is easier to endure than emotional pain because it's finite and curable.

Hang on a second. We have a re-count. Body is the winner! Emotional pain is easier to endure than physical pain because it can't result in death.

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