Throughout the poems “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell and “The Rights of Woman” by Anna Letitia Barbauld, violence is used in contrasting ways. Marvell uses violence to manipulate his mistress into a powerless position, while Barbauld uses it to incite rebellion against just such a power structure.Though violence is not the primary thematic concern within the majority of both works, it plays an essential role in developing the storyline and helps to convey the messages of the authors. Within Marvell’s piece, the speaker describes a timeless love that is not reciprocated. Barbauld, as one might assume from the title, challenges the role of women in an ambitious, powerful manner. Throughout both pieces, violence becomes evident when the speakers use various types of diction while emphasizing the juxtaposition of similar sounding words.
Violence and love are often the result of intense passion, and this is no exception within Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”. The speaker is clearly infatuated with a woman, the subject of the poem, and he believes that these feelings should be reciprocated. This is made clear when the speaker states,
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near (19-22).
In this, the speaker means to convey his dedication to this woman. He fears, however, that her tendency to be coy will not allow them to be together before the “wingèd chariot”(22) carries him up into the afterlife. Though the speaker believes his affection to be undying, stating that, “nor would I love at lower rate”, he fears that time will not allow them to be together, unless she eliminates this part of her personality. This point is emphasized further when Marvell states, “That long-preserved virginity,/ And your quaint honor turn to dust,/ And into ashes all my lust” (28-30) The speaker views this woman as pure, and somehow believes it to be wasteful that she remain that way. He acknowledges that lust is what drives him, and explains that their separation is without purpose. To ensure one final time how devoted he is, the speaker states that, “The grave’s a fine and private place,/ But none, I think, do there embrace” (31-32). This phrasing emphasizes the importance of time and demonstrates that there is no need to be coy. The speaker attempts to coerce his mistress through fear. He attempts to convince her that time is limited and that they cannot be together in the afterlife, therefore coming to the conclusion that they would be best together at present. Violence first becomes prevalent at this point in the poem, and Marvell’s diction in the latter half demonstrates the speakers’ building frustrations.
Marvell approaches violence in a manner that is almost imperceptible, the first time reading his poem “To His Coy Mistress”. The speaker describes his coy mistress in saying,
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,