Study Guide

To His Coy Mistress Speaker

By Andrew Marvell

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Our speaker is anonymous. He could be any man, anywhere. He’s an intense guy. He speaks very beautifully, rhyming everything so that we are barely aware of it and using the perfect word every time. We could listen to him say "amorous birds of prey" all day – as long as he doesn’t bring up worms, for crying out loud. (Although some people really like that part.)

We have to face it. He has a mean streak that probably isn’t much fun to deal with in a real-life relationship. But, even if he isn’t fictional, his lust for life would probably charm us. It’s hard not to get excited when he gets excited. Did we mention that he has a way with words?

In addition to beauty, his speech is so thick with irony and sarcasm that it’s hard to know if he ever says what he means, or means what he says. So, maybe all his hurtful words are just jokes. Sigh. He’s so talented, too, surprising us with little jokes. It’s fun to think about all the stuff he brings up: time and the afterlife and whatnot.

But, he’s way too persistent and needs too much attention. He’s a high maintenance speaker. And, his paranoid fantasies of slaying time get to be a bit much on occasion, as funny and clever as they are.

The more times we read the poem, the less sure we are about who the speaker is and what he’s about. On the other hand, no matter how many times we read it, the language that the speaker uses never gets old. Some fresh insight is always embedded in his unique way of talking.

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