"To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell

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The man in “To His Coy Mistress,” written by Andrew Marvell, is completely enamored with the lady depicted in the poem. He tries to show her that he loves her and, more importantly, his soul will always have feelings for her, even after death. Whether it is love or lust that drives him, he certainly wants his “coy mistress” very badly, in solely a sexual manner.

The man’s feelings at first seem powerful, but prove to be only courtly flirtations that are commonly associated with the time period. He shows himself to possibly be of decent character by saying, “Nor would I love at lower rate,” in regards to the lady and her virginity (Marvell, line 20). By this statement, he is telling her that he will still love her, regardless of whatever carnal relations may ensue as a result of his argument for sex. He only tells her this in order to convince the lady to submit to him. Sadly, he does not actually mean that he will still be around if she does not put out. This is the likeliest interpretation because he insinuates that the pair cannot flirt forever since they will not always be as young and attractive as they are now. He then, however, claims that he has waited for a respectable period of time and finally cannot take it any longer.

The man offers yet another proposal, suggesting that if he does not get to take her virginity, then the worms will take it from her after she is dead and buried. The man in Marvell's poem then proceeds to undermine his mistress's virginity by claiming that her “quaint honor [will] turn to dust” if he does not get his way with her (line 29). His passions are overtaking him, further exemplifying his lustful feelings for the lady. He speaks of the intensity that their love could physically bring, further pressing the issue upon her. Coincidentally, the man in "To His Coy Mistress" does not seem to care only about sex with the lady, claiming that the two will always care for one another, even after they go “thorough the iron gates of life” (Marvell, line 44).

The last two lines of the poem hint at their inability to properly be together as a couple. Perhaps their two separate worlds actually cannot “stand still” long enough for them to be together in order to develop a real relationship

(Marvell, line 46). Unfortunately, it is far more likely that the man simply does not care enough about the mistress to create a respectable courtship with her . Regardless, the man in "To His Coy Mistress" feels as though the lady should have sex with him because he has used both romantic and logical reasoning to support the notion that they should seal the deal already.The man's attitude toward the lady in "To His Coy Mistress" proves that the poem is essentially about a man preoccupied with pursuing an attractive and captivating young woman in hopes of making love with her, as long as no strings are attached.

Helpful commentary on "To His Coy Mistress"

Key Characters:

Young Man: A young man who is infatuated with a young lady that he sees. He is seeking to make love with this lady as soon as possible.

Young Lady: A young lady that is a flirt. Plays hard-to-get with the young man.

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Sex is the dominant theme of Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress," exemplifying a person's need for meaningless sex with both an endearing and willing partner whom they have some degree of feelings for. The main goal of the man in the poem is to woo his mistress into having sex with him because he cannot take her purity any longer. He claims that his desire to "tear our pleasures with rough strife" would be the epitome of satisfaction and happiness for the couple (Marvell, line 43). In modern day language, "To His Coy Mistress" could easily be interpreted as a sentimental, yet arrogant, pick-up line.

The idea of sex is used as a symbol in order to show the power struggle between the man and the woman. The man is accustomed to getting what he wants, and the woman's kept purity is his only obstacle thus far. "To His Coy Mistress" is a poem that portrays the power that women once had over men, using sex as a controlling force over men.

In "To His Coy Mistress," the limitation of time is an extremely important tool the man utilizes in order to convince the young woman that they must have sex immediately, without any further consideration. He feels as though he must seize the moment that he is sharing with his mistress and physically show his feelings for her through sex. For the man, he does not fully care about having a respectable relationship with the woman but mainly cares about having sex with her. He claims that the couple is running out of time and that they must consummate their feelings for one another long before they perish.

Time is used as a symbol to show that youth and beauty are undeniably perishable and must be cherished while one is still alive. The man in "To His Coy Mistress" considers time as a restraint on sex. The man and woman will not always be young and able to have sex with one another as they readily are at the present moment.

Key Concepts:

The poem, "To His Coy Mistress," follows the Epicurean Philosophy- the idea that we rely on our senses alone. This philosophy intends to reduce natural anxiety, eliminate superstition, and the dread of death. It says that one who follows this philosophy is singularly devoted to sexual pleasures and that these pleasures can void any amount of pain for anyone. As one can see, the Young Man is trying, by swaying with words, to find himself entangled in the young lady's arms, absent from pain of death. He truly wishes to give the young lady all he can, but he embraces the ideas of this philosophy and tries to go heels to Jesus before Jesus comes for him.

Syllogism is a driving force in the argument of the poem. The idea of the poem is expressed through syllogism, which is a logical argument that has two premises, one that states the major idea, the second that makes the more direct, minor point, then followed by the conclusion that renders the verdict of the argument. For example, if all of A is C, and all of B is A, therefore all B is C. This scenario is seen in the poem. The young man has a plan for this young girl. He describes what he plans to do with her and the love he intends to show her. He says if he had all the time in the world he would give her the best, most intimate relationship that he says she deserves. However, he then states how he does not have much time to share with her and that they should experience all the love they can as quickly as they can. The use of this literary element a unique technique not seen in much writing now.

The author of "To His Coy Mistress," Andrew Marvell

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^steel engraving, 1821.
The Granger Collection, New York City

On March 31, 1621, Andrew Marvell was born to Reverend Andrew and Anne Marvell. Soon after his birth, the family moved to Hull, England, where Reverend Andrew Marvell became lecturer at the Holy Trinity Church. It was there that Andrew Marvell was educated and later, in 1633, became a Sizar of Trinity College, Cambridge. Four years after, in 1637, Marvell's first two poems were published in the “Musa Cantabrigiensis” (Jokinen). One year after being published, Marvell was admitted to Trinity College as a scholar, where he received a degree.

By the age of 19, Marvell had lost both his mother and father. Possibly because of this fact, little is known about Marvell pertaining to the following years of his life. He may have held a position as a clerk, but also may have traveled abroad in various countries. It is known, however, that in 1650, Marvell became "the tutor of twelve-year-old Mary Fairfax (later Duchess of Buckingham), daughter of Sir Thomas Fairfax, retired Lord General of the parliamentary forces" (Jokinen). While tutoring the young girl, it is believed that Andrew Marvell wrote "Upon Appleton House," "The Definition of Love," and "To His Coy Mistress." Later Marvell moved on to tutor Lord Cromwell's nephew, William Dutton.

During the last twenty or so years of Marvell's life, he stopped tutoring small children and began engaging in the political life of 17th century England. Marvell died on August 16, 1678, of "tertian ague, and the malpractice of the attending physician" (Jokinen). Andrew Marvell's Miscellaneous Poems were later published, posthumously, in 1681.

Works Cited

"Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)." Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Web. 13 Mar 2011.<http://nzr.mvnu.edu/faculty/trearick/english/rearick/readings/authors/specific/marvell_andrew.htm>.

"Commentary on 'To His Coy Mistress',[sic] Andrew Marvell ." YouTube.com. Web. 14 Mar 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Udhud76akUE&feature=related>.

Jokinen, Anniina. "The Life of Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)." Luminarium: Anthology ofEnglish Literature. Anniina Jokinen, 10 Sep 2006. Web. 13 Mar 2011.<http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/marvbio.htm>.

Marvell, Andrew. "To His Coy Mistress". Literature for Composition Ninth Edition.Sylvan Barnet, William E. Cain, William Burto. United States: Pearson, 2005. Print.

"To his coy mistress by Andrew Marvell ." English Club. Web. 14 Mar 2011. <http://nazimsub.blogspot.com/2010/04/to-his-coy-mistress-by-andrew-marvell.html>.

"To His Coy Mistress (Phoenix 60p paperbacks)." goodreads. Web. 3 Feb 2011.<http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51DFY1WVJSL.jpg>.

(Mr. Wilson- I know how to cite things, Wikispaces keeps screwing up the formatting.)