An Excerpt from a Historical Context Paper Regarding “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvel

This is an excerpt from a historical context essay surrounding Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” discussing how the use of time as character creates a sense of urgency for the reader and for the speaker’s mistress.

Another way that urgency is created through the use of time the way that it is depicted as being attached to an action. Marvell’s personification of Time with the statement, “Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near” is effective not just because of the fear of pushing us closer towards our inevitable death, but because the word is connected to motion. Time is meaningless unless we compare it to a characteristic that we can tangibly sense. Our sense of time is based on motion, whether it’s physical movement such as a chariot nipping at someone’s heels, or a metaphysical process accomplished through mental stimulation. Whichever the case, Joan Hartwig discusses in “The Principle of Measure in ‘To His Coy Mistress’” that motion is “the fulfillment of what exists potentially…but also time by movement, because they define each other.”(573) Potentially in the story there is the possibility that if the Mistress’s coyness remains, the narrator’s want for sex also does due to the time to motion concept described earlier with regards to the term “vegetable love.” The term vegetable when put in terms of a living being can be defined as slow or not progressing. In the context of the story and with time itself, this slow movement as a description of the relationship that the pair alludes again to how little time they have together when compared with eternity itself. Based on this, the narrator’s point that this vegetable love cannot go on is valid when putting movement in terms of time.


Introduction to Literary History and Interpretation Copyright © by Students of English 14, Winter 2018, Santa Clara University. All Rights Reserved.

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