Study Guide

To His Coy Mistress Time

By Andrew Marvell

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The speaker of Andrew Marvell’s poem, "To His Coy Mistress," thinks that time is a super-villain out to get him. He wants to flip the script and control time. It’s not surprising that Marvell was concerned with time. It was a hot topic in the 1600s. Marvell lived during the time of both Galileo Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton, both of whom revolutionized the way we think about time today. Time remains a mystery to us, and Marvell’s poem gives us an opportunity to explore that mystery.

Questions About Time

  1. Does this poem make you wonder about time? How much do we really know about time? Does the speaker seem like he knows a lot about time, or does he make it up as he goes along?
  2. The speaker argues that, if his mistress has sex with him, they will have more control over time. What do you think of this argument? Do you see any connections between time and sex in "the real world?" If so, like what? If not, how are time and sex unrelated?
  3. What would you do if you had more time? If you know you will die tomorrow, what would you do? Would you live your life differently if you had "world enough, and time?"
  4. How does the poem connect "time" and the "sun?"

Chew on This

Time functions as a character in the poem – a character who battles the speaker over the speaker’s mistress, or so the speaker claims to believe.

A look at the history of clocks helps us understand the anxiety over time that the speaker of "To His Coy Mistress" feels. (This one will require some research.)

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