In what way does Andrew Marvell present the male interpretation of love in "To His Coy Mistress"?

Expert Answers
iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" is a poem that deals with many themes, especially the themes of love, time, human mortality, and the pursuit of pleasure. However, for all its complexity, "Mistress" is also a representation of the shallow, male interpretation of love, as it essentially equates love with sex.

Initially, the speaker insists that he wishes he were able to engage in a long courtship and get to know his lover in an intimate way. However, the speaker also asserts that this process is sadly impossible, because he and his mistress will get old and die. As such, the speaker concludes that it is necessary to love each other (have sex, in other words) while both parties are young and good looking so that they can have as much pleasure in life before they die.

The elevated verse of the piece suggests there's a certain logic to the speaker's argument, but it's important to remember that the speaker is advancing a stereotypically male (and even misogynistic) view of love. For the speaker, getting the most out of a romantic relationship means having sex (and, he implies, lots of it). As such, he essentially reduces the woman in the relationship to a body and nothing more. After all, the speaker is essentially saying that what's most important is the physical aspect of the relationship. Everything else (getting to know one another, developing a strong emotional bond, etc.) is secondary and ultimately superfluous for him. As such, the speaker advances a classically patriarchal view of love, as he callously reduces his female companion to a mere body and refuses to view the emotional development of a relationship as important.  

Read the study guide:
To His Coy Mistress

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question