To His Coy Mistress Characters
by Andrew Marvell

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To His Coy Mistress Characters

The main characters in “To His Coy Mistress” are the speaker, the mistress, and Time.

  • The speaker of the poem tries to persuade his mistress to give into sexual passion.
  • The mistress is “coy” and has not submitted to the speaker’s sexual advances. Her presentation is likely skewed by the speaker’s desires and point of view.
  • Time is personified to be against the lovers, and the speaker argues that Time is the reason his mistress should give in to his efforts.

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The Speaker

The speaker, arguably Marvell himself, is a lover who is attempting to convince his virgin mistress to submit to him sexually. He is ever conscious of “Time’s wingèd chariot” at his back—that is, he perceives that time is passing quickly and that life is short. The speaker flatters his mistress, indulging in a fantasy in which he admits that she deserves an infinite lifetime of praise and acknowledges that her coyness would be warranted if the lovers had infinite lifespans: it would be his pleasure to adore every part of her “for an age at least” if they had “but world enough and time.” However, he urges his mistress to recognize that this is not the world they live in. Time is moving inexorably onward, and if his mistress does not submit to him soon, they may never be able to consummate their love. He is insistent that the only way to outwit time is to “sport” while they are young and derive what joy they can from their love and lust.

The Mistress

As Marvell makes clear from the poem’s title and opening lines, the speaker’s mistress is “coy” and is refusing his sexual advances. Because the poem is written from the speaker’s point of view, readers see the mistress through his eyes: he perceives her as beautiful and worthy of infinite admiration and praise. In the second stanza, the nature of her coyness is made more explicit, and the speaker explains that she is still in possession...

(The entire section is 425 words.)