Comparison Of Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 And Marvel’s To His Coy Mistress


Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” and Shakespeare’s sonnet 116, address the subject matter of love but in two different perspectives; as the poets perceive love in two different lights and also in two different eras. 

If we reflect into both the poet’s genre we see that Shakespeare who belonged to the 16th century was a playwright, poet and theater entrepreneur, his literary works depict romanticism, fantasy; satire, philosophy etc. which earned him the title of the “Bard of Avon”. Although known to be a commoner, he is often called England’s national poet and the greatest dramatist of all time. On the other hand, Andrew Marvell who belonged to the 17th century is a metaphysical poet. Not only that Andrew was a politician with an aristocratic English background. Both the poets works portray their mindset and they have penned their thoughts in two very different point of view; though on the same topic, Love. 

“To His Coy Mistress” Andrew Marvell’ focuses more on the seduction and sexual expression of love whereas in Shakespeare’s sonnet 116 is about a more transcendental love; a love which is platonic and goes beyond physicality. While ‘To His Coy Mistress” is Carpe diem, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 16 is metaphorical and harps on love crossing the boundaries of time. 

Sonnet 116

The Sonnet 116 reveals the poet’s inner romantic self, who believes love to be something which has no physical boundaries. The sonnet starts of by raising a question of why two true minded people with the like minds should not be together, with the anticipation that love might lose its true essence in the mundane life. However, as the poem progress we see why the fear; where he states that love is such a sensitive element and how an act of unfaithfulness can leave a permanent mark on the whole relationship. 

Love, as the poet describes is a feeling so strong that it can fight through any obstacles which comes its way. It can never be measured in numbers or statistics. The poet also feels that love which does not withstand trials and alters when there is a challenge; is not love at all. Love is described as an eternal feeling which never fades away nor does it get shaken during turbulent times. It is like a polestar which remains like a constant guiding light for true lovers. Physical beauty and spark of the loved ones will surely fade with time but true love is eternal and no external physical change can faint it. True love is not skin deep, it touches your soul; which lives beyond life. 

The poet describes love as a beautiful feeling among two minds who think alike; although it is more likely to lose against time as one lifetime may be too short for two beings to fight against all the obstacles of love but distance and time should not hamper love. As described earlier true love goes beyond hours and moments it goes beyond eternity; as it is a coming- together of two souls which transcends time. 

To His Coy Mistress

Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” poses the eternal question of is Love Physical or Platonic? While romantics will argue that love is platonic and despite any physicality, true love is possible; but the anti-platonic theorist believes that love should be consummated physically; to give it fulfillment. 

The poet Andrew Marvel in his poem acknowledges the softer, subtle platonic side of love and the importance of appreciating the beauty of his beloved; however, he feels that all these would have been possible if there was enough life time for us. According to him our youth, like our life very short lived so why waste time in platonic relationship, rather beauty and strength of youth should be celebrated through fulfilling our carnal desires. 

Calling his lady love as Coy Mistress also reflects his mindset on how he perceives her; though he goes on to say that if life wasn’t so short he would take years to woe her and appreciate her beauty and coyness; but as it is too short so he is in a constant hurry to fulfill his desire and not let the time pass. He tries to woe her as time is passing fast, and soon the coy mistress will find her virginity and youth getting wasted in the coffin. The poet’s interesting use of phrases like ‘vegetable love’ though sounds poetic, but in reality he is sneering at platonic love. Also description like ‘Two hundred to adore each breast’ brings out the sexual desire of the poet for his coy mistress. 


The poems Sonnet 116 and To His Coy Mistress, both are love poems and though in completely contrast way both also brings out a lover’s yearning for his beloved. One may argue that in “To his Coy mistress” the poet’s sexual desire is very dominant, particularly in lines like” Let us roll our Strength and all Our sweetness, up into one ball and tear our pleasure with rough strife” but in reality isn’t physical love a form of love too? The strong physical desire for his Coy Mistress aroused only because he had true love for her too. The Sonnet 116 surely celebrates love in a more platonic form and love here takes the more spiritual and philosophical form and takes it to beyond life, especially in lines where love is described “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks But bears it out even to the edge of doom.” While we see the poet in To His Coy Mistress is constantly in a hurry to fulfill his desire and seize day, in Sonnet 116 the poet is in no hurry, he believes that love overcomes all tempests and is not bound by time. Love always perseveres and like a permanent mark is constant. Nor time or age or the loss of beauty does it fade. Love according to the poet goes beyond physical, hence physical proximity is not important when the heart is binded. The love described by Shakespeare in the sonnet 116 is a love very pure and rare too. 

16 August 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now