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To His Mistress Going to Bed by John Donne

            This essay will discuss the poem To His Mistress Going To Bed by John Donne. It will focus on the diction, figures of speech and rhetoric, tone and form that appear in the poem and how Donne used these tools to convey his intended message. To His Mistress Going To Bed was written in the late-sixteenth century, but not published until after Donne's death in 1631, like most of his work. It was considered too improper to have been included in the publishing of the first edition of his work in 1633.
             In the poem, Donne writes about the experience of undressing his Mistress in different stages, how his excitement and desire grows throughout the poem until he exclaims, in an ecstasy of admiration, "full nakedness!" (33). The beginning of the poem (approximately 18 lines) focuses on the narrator instructing a woman to undress. One can assume that the female is quite young and most likely still a virgin. First he orders her to remove her "girdle", to "unpin" her "breastplate", to "unlace" herself, to remove her "busk" and orders: "Off with that wiry coronet and show The hairy diadem which on you doth grow" (15-16). Coronets and diadems are one in the same thing, both, in their literal sense, are crowns or headpieces. However, due to the erotic nature of the poem, the latter could be referring to the woman's genitalia. And lastly, "off with those shoes" (17). Even though, Donne does not reveal any information about the female in the poem it is clear that she is of a high social status, because of her rich attire ("spangled breastplate", "coronet"). .
             The speaker's hands start to travel "before, behind, between, above, below" and he then shouts "O my America! my new-found-land" (26-27). Interestingly, colonial expedition was often metaphorically referred to as conquering a "female" territory during the 16th century. It was not only described as women, but new-found-lands were also referred to as virgin lands.

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