To His Coy Mistress Is About Coyness Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Andrew Marvell's poem "To His Coy Mistress," the narrator makes it clear that coyness is a "crime," (line 2). Coyness is a crime because it represents withholding gratification for an indefinite time, when human beings do not have unlimited time. Thus, coyness is akin to a crime against nature. To be coy is to deny the passage of time, to deny death, and to deny the reality of aging. According to the narrator, human beings have but one life to live, and a short one at that. It is important to seize the moment, and not put off happiness in the pursuit of false morals. If human beings were immortal, it would be fine to "sit down and think which way / To walk and pass our long love's day," (lines 3-4). However, human beings are not immortal. Coyness is a lie; it pretends that people, their health, and their beauty, are everlasting. Using imagery of time, the narrator tries to convince his mistress that playing hard to get is an affront to love itself.

The tone of "To His Coy Mistress" verges on sarcasm. Through the first stanza, the author uses hyperbole to emphasize the core theme. "I would / Love you ten years before the Flood / And you should, if you please, refuse / Till the conversion of the Jews," (lines 8-10). The narrator then launches into a lengthy description of how many years, epochs, ages, and eons can be devoted to praising the woman's beauty, as she would like to see. Phrases like "deserts of vast eternity" underscore the role that hyperbole and sarcasm play in "To His Coy Mistress," as he makes fun of the woman's coyness. Coyness is summarily exaggerated as a crime against the natural order of things; to be coy is to suggest that human beings have unlimited resources of time and are immortal. Moreover, the narrator suggests that coyness is an affront against the human body, which needs to feel pleasure. Human beings have limited time to enjoy life, as old age and death ensue. Once a person is old, infirm, or dead, love serves no role. "The grave's a fine and private place," like a bedroom (line 31). Comparing the grave to a bed is a humorous way of emphasizing the narrator's main point. However, no couples can actually embrace or enjoy themselves from a bed buried six feet under. Therefore, the narrator implores the mistress to embrace his advances while they are both still young -- and alive.

At line 21, the narrator's tone and stance takes a turn towards greater frankness and realism. First, he states that he is keenly aware of "Time's winged chariot hurrying near," (line 22). The gist of "To His Coy Mistress" is that time flies, and it is important to enjoy every minute rather than delay gratification. Then, the narrator discusses the fact that too much coyness will mean that by the time their love is consummated, they may both be dead or at least unattractive. In fact, the narrator boldly suggests that if the mistress continues to be coy, she will probably no longer be attractive by the time she decides to stop. Her beauty shall "no more be found" if it is confined to a "marble vault," like a mausoleum (lines 25-26). Therefore, coyness is presented as being a stupid and irrational decision to make because "worms shall try / That long preserved virginity," (lines 27-28). The narrator continues to be sarcastic, even a little biting, when he describes the mistress's honour as being "quant," (line 29). Far from being quaint, coyness is annoying when it is taken to an extreme. If the mistress does not put out now, she may die a virgin.

Coyness impedes the natural expression of love between two people. It also becomes a mockery of genuine chastity. Genuine chastity is an understandable behavior but only for a short while, and also only if the person is genuinely uninterested in the other person. After…

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Work Cited

Marvell, Andrew. "To His Coy Mistress." Retrieved online: http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/coy.htm

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