Discuss Feminism in Andrew Marvell's"to his coy mistress"Discuss Feminism in Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress."

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't see how you can construe this poem as a statement by a feminist.  However, I do see how you could analyze it from a feminist point of view.

One sort of feminist would argue that this poem does in fact (the previous post notwithstanding) see women as merely sex objects.  The speaker sees love as unimportant, you might argue, and pursues only sex.  This can be seen as a typically male way of relating to women.

Other feminists might see in this evidence of the power that women have over men.  The poem might be seen as evidence that women have the ability to take men's lust and their objectification of women and turn it into power.  Thus, women take their oppression and use it in clever ways to control the men who objectify them (because women can control men by granting or witholding sex).

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A feminist reading could also address that tone that the male speaker is using in the poem.  He starts in an "over-the-top" flattering manner, but turns it around in the second part to a gross and kind of scary/awful scenario of a worm "taking" the young lady's virginity.  He was already seducing her with words, now he is seducing her with fear.  Added to this he uses a word like "quaint" to describe her virginity.  Quaint implies cute and rather unimportant.  A woman's honor and her virginity are not trifles to her.  Women are always judged more harshly on their sexual morality, and he is teasing her or downplaying that reality in a tone that could be considered demeaning.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some will take this poem and point out that the man is attempting to convince the woman that she is worth several "forevers" of worship for each valued part of her anatomy as well as her heart and her head. However, the man cheapens this worthy admiration by attempting to use this flattery as a catalyst to the physical attention he is craving.  In other words, he doesn't have time to pour flattery upon her as she deserves because Time is flying and they're both getting closer to death.  He does not value the importance of feeling close without literally connecting.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to agree with the first poster, that this is simply a love poem by a man who desires to be with the woman he loves. Actually, the fact that she has been "coy" up until now suggests that she is the one manipulating him for whatever reason. A feminist, however, might see that the most important thing in this poem is not the woman; instead, it is all about the man and what he wants. His pleas for love might be seen as agression or excessive pressure. That is not what most people think of as an equal relationship.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this age of deconstructivism, it is trendy to attack works for such things as feminism.  If Marvell's speaker were simply trying to seduce the maiden in order to satisfy his prurient desires, it seems dubious that he  would word his prelude to the seduction as he does. And the allusion to her "quaint honor" is not mocking, but flattering as the speaker notes that it would be charming were it not that they have so little time. The theme of this poem seems more to be expediency than lust.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I read once of a teacher who taught in a girls school and she set her kids the assignment of writing a poem in response to this male-dominated poem. The results were excellent, exposing the reality behind the male speaker's pleas for his mistress to love him. I guess you need to talk about perspective and then dissect the actual argument that the male speaker uses. He is very convincing, but at the heart of it lies his own impatience and his inability to wait.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I don't think the poem was written from a feminist standpoint either. However, a feminist would argue that it is a woman's right and responsibility to control her own sexuality. I think that would include not being seduced by a poem! In all seriousness, it would entail not being tricked by the man's attempts to seduce her and rather allow herself to be seduced when she wanted to be.
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To His Coy Mistress

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