Compare and Contrast “To His Coy Mistress” and “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

October 8, 2017 September 1st, 2019 Free Essays Online for College Students

Without any doubt, there are many similarities and differences between these two love poems. Born in 1621, Andrew Marvell wrote “To His Coy Mistress” a cleverly written poem based on the phrase “carpe diem” or “seize the day.” It was an attempt to persuade a girl to sleep with him. Christopher Marlowe, was the predecessor of Shakespeare, wrote the poem ‘The Passionate Shepherd to His Love’ which is a romantic poem about a man never wanting to be apart from his woman. He pleads for the woman’s love by offering his eternal commitment and a beautiful life.

The two poems use very different arguments to try to persuade the woman to do similar things. These two arguments are close to being completely the opposite even though they are trying to achieve the same thing. Marlowe’s poem does not have a clear argument but it roughly is, if you agree to come with me then everything will be good from now on. He wants “his love” to come and live with him. The speaker says “come live with me” and “we will all the pleasures”. On the other hand Marvell is after only one thing and that is to go to bed with the woman. His argument is that time is running out for the young woman. The poet makes the speaker use a very graphic image about her losing her virginity to worms in a graveyard when she is dead; “then worms shall try that long preserved virginity”. He also uses many other techniques to persuade his woman.

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This graphic image is an attempt to persuade the woman into bed with him. It is called shock tactics and is one of the main methods that Marvell makes the speaker use to convince “his coy mistress”. Furthermore, the speaker carries on about a grave being a private place to lose your virginity but this just makes the image more horrific. Again this is another attempt to try to scare the “coy mistress” into bed. There are three main sections to Marvell’s poem, the first uses flattery in an attempt to soften up the mistress but this does not work. So the second section tries to shock the woman, again this does not work. And finally the speaker is made to sum up the entire pledge.

In the final section the speaker uses certain words that he would not have used in the first to sections, such as “we” and “us” instead of “me” and “I.” This change tries to convince the woman that the two are meant to be together rather than being just on their own. Another method the speaker uses is emphasising adverbs. These verbs are an attempt to get the mistress to react immediately; he uses “now” three times in succession. Flattery is another main method that Marvell makes the speaker use to try to persuade his mistress. The whole of the first section is focused on using this technique, for example he says “but thirty thousand to the rest.” This means only thirty thousand she deserves more than that. Moreover, he says “two hundred to adore each breast”, the word adore makes the phrase sound very romantic and hopefully flattered the mistress.

The techniques that Marlowe uses are generally quite different to Marvell’s poem. They both use flattery but at a different level, but The Passionate Shepherd to His Love does not use any shock tactics or other methods. Marlowe’s poem uses flattery by saying that he is going to spoil “his love”; he says he will make a “gown” prepared from the “finest wool” and he also says “pretty lamb.” A lamb is a symbolic sign of a new start and usually a good one. This type of flattery is used throughout the poem.

The structure of the two poems is very different. Andrew Marvell’s poem has three main parts but Christopher Marlowe’s is separated into seven stanzas. These two types allow each poem to flow and suit the words being said. There is a key word in Marvell’s poem and it is “but”. Halfway down the poem the speaker says “but” meaning however, if you do not come with me then you will remain a virgin forever. On the other hand, Marlowe’s poem does not use the word but it leaves the choice totally up to his love. Again this fits in with the structure of the poems because there is no sudden change in the Passionate Shepherd, it remains the same all the way through, but Marvell’s is spilt in three and changes at each point.

Both of the poems are written in rhyming couplets, which gives the effect of the poem flowing. This can be associated with love. On two occasions in the coy mistress poem the rhyme breaks down. On line 23 and 24 “lie” and “eternity” are placed together, clearly these do not rhyme. Similarly on line 27 and 28 “try” and “virginity”, however “lie” and “try” rhyme and so do “eternity” and “virginity.” I think the poet intended this because he could not find a word that fitted into the rhyming couplets. So he made these two rhyme instead, but it might just be a coincidence.

The entire feeling that the poems present, is another difference. Marlowe’s poem presents an idyllic image of the countryside, which makes the poem more romantic. The speaker uses the phrases “finest” and “coral clasps” which enhances the good positive feeling surrounding the play and its argument. On the other hand, Marvell’s poem is quite harsh. Again the example of the vivid image described by the speaker shows this. I think this is an attempt to persuade the woman. His efforts have not worked till now and he becomes desperate and uses any method to achieve his goal. But this could just show certain things about the man.

Similarly, the types of verbs used in each poem are suggesting these two different things about the poem. Christopher Marlowe makes the speaker use more soft, and gentle verbs to create the impression of care and thoughtfulness, which he is offering to the woman: he says “pull” instead of tug or heave. But Andrew Marvell creates a stronger, firmer impression with verbs like “transpire” and “devour”, especially in the second and third parts of the poem where his method of persuasion has changed.

A clever technique of slowing the poem down is the use of alliteration, which both of the poems use. This shows that the speakers have put a lot of thought into their pledges to the woman because they want to savour the moment. The slow flowing sense that the reader gets from the poem can also connote romance and passion. Furthermore, the two letters that are used are both soft letters, which signifies the soft approach made by the two men. If the letters were strong and powerful there would be no signs of love and romance. Andrew Marvell uses the letter “w” at the very start of the poem but Marlowe uses his alliteration of “m” at the end to make the poem last longer.

There is an assortment of good language throughout both of the poems, which suggests the poets were both well educated and clever. In the “Coy Mistress” poem there is a lot of information hidden between the lines that implies Marvell is a very clever writer. This type of writing suits the type of poem it is. The speaker’s intellectual persuasion techniques match with the hidden meanings in the poem. On the other hand Marlowe has written a very rustic charm poem that is simple but effective. There are rarely any hidden meanings in the poem, just a basic pledge to the woman. This can suggest a lot about the two poets personalities, but might just have been the method they chose to write the poems.

From the two poems, I can make several assumptions about the characters of the speakers. I think that the speaker in the “Passionate Shepherd” poem would be a very reliable person and would care and love his woman. The offer he promises to the woman and the things he would provide, such as the “buckles of the purest gold” show this. However, the other speaker is very dissimilar. I would expect him to be unreliable, very clever and cunning and to have short relationships with women that have been impressed by his flattery. I come to this judgment; by the conniving methods he uses to persuade his women and his basic argument of wanting to go to bed with the woman.

Clearly, the poems are very similar but have many differences as well. I think that the “Coy Mistress” poem is very devious and well written, but the “Passionate Shepherd” is a very simplistic poem that uses the woman’s appeal to wanting to have the best and to be happy. I prefer the first of these two poems because of the hidden reasons throughout it and also the different methods the speaker uses.

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