In this assignment I will compare and contrast two poems To His Coy Mistress written by Andrew Marvell in 1650 and Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare written in 1590. Both on the theme of love and time and both written to be sent to an unknown recipient. Neither of these two poems were intended to be published. The first major difference between the two poems would be that the structure is noticeably different. Marvell attempts syllogism by dividing his poem into a three-part argument. However, experts say Marvell has not succeeded in this technique.
Stanza one talks about how if they had all the time in the world they would be able to take their time and not have to rush to be together. Part two of the poem is written to shock and remind the recipient that one day she will die and then it will be too late. The third and final stanza is written to encourage her to be active and agree with what she is saying. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 is a closed form poem. This means the poem is written to set rules. A sonnet must include one rhyming couplet at the end, fourteen lines in total, a set rhyming scheme, written to the theme of love and to be divided into an octet and sestet.
Sonnets are also written in iambic pentameter, meaning that there are 10 syllables per line. Shakespeare succeeds in this technique and creates a successful sonnet. A similarity between the two poems would be that both poems relate to the theme of love and its relation to time. However, both views are extremely different. Andrew Marvell is more focused on the physical side of love. Marvell talks about how if time was not an issue he would not have to rush to marry her, he would have all the time in the world to win her love. Stanza three then shocks the recipient into reality that one day she will die and it will be too late.
In this poem time is seen as a destroyer than cannot be stopped no matter how much two people love one another. However, William Shakespeare explores the concept of true love and how, when this is gained it is not affected by time, although appearances are. William Shakespeare believes true love is constant even when this is tested with life’s troubles and problems it will extend beyond moral existence. A connection between the two poems is that both poets use distinct tones to get the message across. In part one of Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress the tone is one of acceptance, relaxation and patience.
Stanza two the poet becomes more urgent and persuasive. Lastly in stanza three the poet is enthusiastic and is encouraging the reader to act on what he has been saying. As there is a distinct change between stanzas in Andrew Marvell’s poem, William Shakespeare’s tone is one of consistence. It is also shown that Shakespeare believes strongly in this issue as he does not change his mind about love and keeps to a confident, positive tone throughout. Another similarity between both poems is that each poet uses vivid, clear and effective imagery that the Edwardian audience would have been familiar with.
Andrew Marvell uses unconventional imagery which is appropriate to the purpose of each section. In stanza one, where the tone is one of relaxation, Marvell compares his love to a slow growing vegetable. “My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow” Here Marvell is comparing his love to a vegetable, something which is small and slow growing, yet still waiting to be picked; to an empire which is something pictured to be vast and amazing yet also takes a long time to be built up. This works well as you would not usually expect something as special as love to be compared to an everyday object such as a vegetable.
In stanza two there is a change in tone and the mood of the poem becomes more intense. The poet is trying to shock the reader and remind her that time is a destroyer and one day time will catch up with her and she will die. “Times winged chariot hurrying near; and yonder all before us lie” This gives the impression of something fast, chasing someone into an open desert with nothing in front of them and no where to hide. The wings give a faster image into the readers head. The fact that there is no escape makes people panic and want to rush and get a head start before this ‘winged chariot’ called time catches up.
Finally stanza three has more of a positive and lively tone. “Thus, though we cannot make our sun stand still, yet we will make him run” Here Marvell makes use of personification and gives the impression of making time move so fast that even the sun will have to speed up to catch up with two lovers. This works as the Edwardian audience would be able to relate to time in this way. They would have believed the sun was the time keeper and it was the sun that decides how long a day will last.
Sonnet 116 takes on a more positive attitude to love and time. Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks. Within his bending sickle’s compass come” Here the poet refers to time as a fool. Shakespeare means that love is not beaten and made a mockery out of by time. The second part of this quote means that physical beauty will fade and by saying ‘sickle compass come’ Shakespeare is cleverly comparing time to the grim reaper, a personification of death. “O no! It is an ever- fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark”
An ever-fixed mark could refer to several things. Such as a lighthouse that used to guide the lost ships. It could also refer to the pole star. This is also something the audience could relate to as shipping was one of the ways of transport in those days. Stars were also used for navigation at sea this was known as celestial navigation. The star or lighthouse to a lost ship would be a fixed mark which can be relied upon for guidance. In comparison to love, Shakespeare is saying love is something that you can always rely on to guide you back.
In conclusion there are a number of similarities and differences between the two poems although they were written sixty years apart by completely different poets. Despite this Marvell and Shakespeare proceed to use the same theme and express their view using effective imagery linked to the subject matter. An obvious difference would be that one poet writes to a close form were there are restrictions to the way the poem is written. However Marvell writes to an open form were there are no restrictions to the way the poet has to write.