English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

To His Coy Mistress By Andrew Marvell

To His Coy Mistress By Andrew Marvell


Today, students will discuss which of the poems they read in Lesson 1 is better. Then they’ll read Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” a much longer poem that is full of intense feeling, rich imagery, and humor.


  • Read the lesson and student content.
  • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
  • Plan how you will pair students for partner work.

Carpe Diem

  • Allow students time to share their notes before giving them the Quick Write prompt in the next task.


Go over “Carpe Diem” with a partner.

  • Share your summaries of the paragraphs.
  • Review what the writer says about “O Mistress Mine” and “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”

The Better Poem

  • Give students 3–5 minutes to write.
  • Facilitate a conversation about the two poems.
    • ELL: Be sure all students are clear about the topic of the discussion before starting. Monitor that ELLs know what is expected of them in this discussion. Encourage ELLs to share. It is important for ELLs to share out loud so that they can hear their own voice and get used to talking in front of large groups.
  • Ask students to explain what criteria they used to decide which poem is better.
  • Generate a Criteria for Judging a Good Poem class chart to list the criteria from the discussion.

Work Time

Complete a Quick Write.

  • Which of the two poems, Shakespeare’s or Herrick’s, is the better poem? Explain your answer.

Open Notebook

Join in a conversation about the two poems by Shakespeare and Herrick. You may share your Quick Write response. Refer to information from the “Carpe Diem” informational text.

Clear up any questions you have about the two poems.

"To His Coy Mistress"

  • You may want to refer to the “Carpe Diem” essay and what the author writes about Marvell’s poem.
  • Begin by reading the poem aloud and calling on one or two students to read it aloud again.
    • ELL: Encourage ELLs to participate as actively as their native English language-speaking counterparts. When eliciting volunteers, be cognizant of the difficulties some ELLs encounter when they have to express themselves in a foreign language.
  • Allow students to work with partners to read and annotate the first part of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” stopping at the break after line 20. Tell them to mark any words or passages they don’t understand.

Work Time

Another carpe diem poem along the lines of Shakespeare’s and Herrick’s is Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.”

After hearing the poem read a couple of times, work with a partner to make sentence sense of the poem.

  • After each sentence (not line) write a brief paraphrase.
  • Generate questions if you run into problems with understanding.
  • Stop when you reach the break at line 20.

"To His Coy Mistress," Lines 1-20

  • After checking to make sure students know the meanings of the words they marked, facilitate a discussion about the meaning of the first part of “To His Coy Mistress.”
    • SWD: Your professional supporting students with individualized education plans might want to have the students keep a vocabulary journal with the words and a picture of each word (a photograph with a sentence or a drawn picture) for reference.
  • Use the discussion questions to probe for deeper understanding.
  • When you feel certain that students understand the first part of the poem, move to the next task.
  • An annotated version of “To His Coy Mistress” is available.

Work Time

Begin the class conversation by sharing any words or passages from the poem that you don’t understand.

Discuss these questions to demonstrate your understanding and give your opinions about the poem.

  • In what sense could coyness be a “crime”?
  • Why, in lines 5–7, would the speaker of the poem be complaining?
  • Explain the lines, “And you should, if you please, refuse / Till the conversion of the Jews.”
  • How does the writer use humor to make his point? What’s funny?
  • Has the writer gone too far and crossed over into crassness?

"To His Coy Mistress," Lines 21-32

  • Give students time to mark the poem for what they don’t understand and to write answers to the questions.
  • Circulate through the room to get a sense of how much support students need for this part of the poem. If you think they understand well, have them continue to read and annotate the last part of the poem.

Work Time

Read and annotate lines 21–32 of “To His Coy Mistress.” Once again, mark any passages or words you don’t understand and be prepared to share those with the class.

Record your answers to the following questions and then submit them to your teacher.

  • In the first part of the poem, the speaker says they can take all the time in the world. In the beginning of the second part, starting on line 21, what is behind the speaker and what does he face ahead of him?
  • Because we can’t stop the passage of time, what is inevitable about all our lives?
  • What, according to the speaker, are the consequences of his mistress’s dying?

Open Notebook

"To His Coy Mistress," Lines 33-46

  • Give students the rest of the Work Time to finish annotating the poem.

Work Time

Finish “To His Coy Mistress.”

  • Read and annotate lines 33–46.
  • Discuss this part of the poem with your partner.
  • If you finish early, go back to the “Carpe Diem” informational text to review what the author says about Marvell’s poem.

Important Lines

  • Have students share their choices with their partner.


Consider “To His Coy Mistress.”

  • Choose one or two lines from the poem to share that you really like or that you think are important.

Share them with your partner. You will share them with the rest of your classmates during the next lesson.

Three Arguments

  • Encourage students to have fun with this but to also be school-appropriate.


Look back at the three poems you’ve read.

  • Make a list of two or three arguments made in each of the three poems.
  • How does the speaker in each poem try to convince his love to submit to him?

Open Notebook