Study Guide

A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body Wisdom and Knowledge

By Andrew Marvell

Wisdom and Knowledge

In "A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body," the body's final stanza is a catalogue of painful, emotional knowledge it has learned from soul school. After all, the body's just a stack of bones with skin on it, more animal than human. It's only through its soul partnership that it experiences all the fluffy stuff that makes us human—you know, humor, sorrow, joy, love. That leads us to the next point: not all this knowledge is bad. Hope and love, joy and memory? Sounds like a feel-good rom-com to us. But in the body's book, it all falls under the category of Stuff That Hurts More Than It's Worth. Hopes are dashed, yo, and all that love can easily go unrequited.

Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

  1. Why do you think the body compares these emotions to feeling sick?
  2. Why are hope and joy just as painful as fear and hatred in this poem? How would Body answer that question? How would Soul?
  3. How does sin fit into all these emotional experiences? 
  4. How would you describe the tone of the last four lines?

Chew on This

Ready for some bad news? The unpredictable, all-consuming force of emotions makes them all bad—even the "nice" ones like love.

A body without emotions wouldn't be able to commit sin. Think about it.