I need to write a comparison/contrast essay using 2 poems/sonnets from William Shakespeare, Sir Thomas Wyatt, or Andrew Marvell. What are some choices of pairs of poems by two of these poets that would be good to use?

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One possible choice would be to compare and contrast Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" and William Shakespeare's Sonnet 116. We can examine each one as an individual before comparing and contrasting.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 is one of Shakespeare's more straightforward and famous sonnets. In this sonnet, the speaker declares that love is firm, unmoving and an ever-fixed mark. Shakespeare begins the sonnet by stating that love is eternal. This message resonates with many contemporary audiences, and many marketers use this idea in commercials or ads for products like diamonds or romantic cruises. (Think of the "Love is Forever" diamond jewelry from Kohl's, for instance.) Typically, Shakespearean sonnets will flip in the final couplet, often imposing a sneaky message that subverts the entire tone or direction of the sonnet. In this instance, however, Shakespeare remains sincere to his message. He declares that if this is not true, then he is not a writer. In this way, Sonnet 116 stands out in its sincerity.

Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" is a poem whose speaker describes a mistress to which he is sexually attracted. He describes the attraction, pointing out that both of them could wait ages to act on their desires for one another. "Coy" is an important word here, as it describes the mistress' unwillingness to act on her feelings. Interestingly, Marvell switches tone halfway through the poem. Midway, Marvell describes how they do not have forever, and that their bodies will eventually wither away. Instead, Marvell claims they should "at once our time devour / Than languish in ... slow-chapped power." It is a cheeky poem that opens up to being more sexual by its close.

Shakespeare's sonnets typically take on a tone similar to Marvell's. Sonnet 116, however, is different. Sonnet 116 is a sincere, straightforward moment for Shakespeare, a writer who is usually more crafty and subversive. Marvell's poem is closer to Shakespeare's usual tone.

An essay could explore these poems and talk about the subversive, often sexual nature of both of these writers. Specifically, you could explore how Sonnet 116 stands out as a unique Shakespearean poem.

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