The UVic Writer's Guide


Dramatic Lyric


In a dramatic lyric, the speaker operates within a particular dramatic situation, and addresses one or more silent auditors (recognized only indirectly by the reader). Emphasis is placed upon the poem's subject rather than the speaker's character (compare Dramatic Monologue ). John Donne's "The Canonization" (1633) and Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" (1798) are examples. Quoted below is the first stanza of Donne's "The Flea" (1633), in which the speaker addresses his mistress in the dramatic moment of seduction; the main interest of the poem is his ingenious (perhaps over-ingenious) argument comparing a flea bite with the act of love. (see Metaphysical Conceit):

Mark but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is;
Me it sucked first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be;
Thou know'st that this cannot be said
A sin, or shame, or loss of maidenhead,
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pampered swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than we would do.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated April 11, 1995