To His Coy Mistress” : On How a Female Might Respond

“Clearly, a female reader of “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell might have trouble identifying with the poems speaker; therefore, her first response would be to identify with the listener-in-the-poem, the eternally silent Coy Mistress. In such a reading she is likely to recognize she has heard this kind of line before, although maybe not with the same intensity and insistence. Moreover, she is likely to (re)experience the unsettling emotions that such an egoistic assault on her virginal autonomy would provoke. She would also see differently, even by contemporary standards, the plot beyond closure, the possible consequences-both physical and social-that the Mistress will encounter. Lastly, she is likely to be angered by this poem.” -Bernard Duyfhuizen

How convincing do you find Duyfhuizen’s argument? Is he ignoring the “carpe diem” theme that Marvell clearly intended to convey, even falling victim to so-called “political correctness,” or are there disturbing predatory elements in the poem that (predominantly male) critics have overlooked for centuries? In your response, pay particular attention to Marvell’s imagery, as well as the tone of the speaker himself-how seriously are readers to take his proposal?

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