Study Guide

To His Coy Mistress Sex

By Andrew Marvell

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If time is the super-villain of Andrew Marvell’s "To His Coy Mistress," then having sex is the super-power he needs to gain control over his enemy. But, sex isn’t so easy to come by. Possibly because only a very special someone would understand the speaker’s ideas about it. With wit and daring, the speaker discusses sex in frank, beautiful, and disturbing language. Sex is another one of those great mysteries that poets never tire of exploring. Marvell’s contribution perhaps paves the way for more open discussions of sex and sexuality.

Questions About Sex

  1. The speaker obviously wants to have sex with the mistress. Does he also love her? If so, how does he express his love? If he doesn’t, how do you feel about the idea of sex without love?
  2. Why does the speaker think it’s a "crime" for the mistress not to have sex with him? Does his argument have any merit? Why, or why not?
  3. How does it make you feel when the speaker talks about sex and death together?

Chew on This

The violence in the speaker’s description of his sexual fantasy in the third stanza is directed at time, not at the mistress.

The speaker’s argument that sex will help him control time is meant ironically, and ultimately comments on the fleeting nature of sexual pleasure.

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