Andrew Marvell: Poetry & Overview

Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Andrew Marvell is one of the most important writers of the 17th century. Many of his writings are satirical views of his political experiences. Through this article, you'll learn more about Andrew Marvell's life and poetry.


Andrew Marvell is known as one of the most popular writers of the 17th century. Marvell is popular for writing political satire (the use of irony, sarcasm, or ridicule in exposing and denouncing immoral behavior) and lyrical verse.

Andrew Marvell
Andrew Marvell

There is not a lot of information about Andrew Marvell's life after he left college; however, some of his early life is known. Marvell was born in 1621 and grew up in Yorkshire, England. Andrew's father was a professor at a church. When he was twelve years old, Marvell went to Trinity College to study in Cambridge, England. After studying in Cambridge for four years, two of Marvell's poems were published in an anthology of poets. Marvell received his bachelor's degree in 1639 and went on to pursue a master's degree as well.

Tragedy struck Marvell's family in 1641 when Marvell's father drowned. At that time, Andrew decided to stop pursuing his master's degree and left school. Much of the information regarding Marvell's life at that time is unclear. Some believe that while Marvell was at Cambridge, he was converted by the Jesuits and left college, but this story cannot be proven. Marvell is also thought to have traveled for years studying different languages and writing after he left Cambridge. Some believe he was a government agent. Others believe he tried to avoid going to war. For a period of time in the 1650s, Marvell is thought to have worked as a tutor. It was during this time that he was thought to have written some of his best pieces of literature.

Marvell also worked in various public offices. During the time that Marvell was in office, there was a lot of political tension and strife in England. Marvell criticized in his writings the court and Parliament based on his experiences in public office. Marvell was able to use his political position to help get his friends, such as a fellow poet John Milton, out of trouble.

After spending almost two decades in Parliament, Andrew Marvell died of a fever. Some people gossiped that the Jesuits, who Marvell often wrote about in his poetry, poisoned him to death, but these claims are not substantiated. In 1681, a book containing Marvell's poems was published by a family member. The preface of the book was written by Marvell's former housekeeper, 'Mary,' who posed as Marvell's wife to protect his estate.

Works of Poetry

Marvell's writings are composed of lyrics and poetry. Most of Andrew Marvell's written works are based on events from his life or things that occurred during his lifespan. Many of his writings paint a picture for writers to see and experience the story. In the 19th century, Marvell's writings became popular after T.S. Eliot wrote a piece about Marvell's life in which he was recognized as an important lyrical poet. His earlier writings and speeches were completed as an eulogist. His later writings were more satirical and politically-attacking towards the church and royal court of England.

Marvell's popularity in English literature in the 17th century is important because his writings are more representative of modern English society and represented a change from a largely medieval and Christian writing tradition. Andrew Marvell's first Latin poem is called Ad Regem Carolum Parodia; it is a 'parody' of another written piece by Horace (Odes 1.2). In this poem, Marvell discusses the lives of the king and queen after a plague. In his first Greek writing, Marvell discusses the birth of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria's first child, which Marvell wrote changed the luck of the number five for good.

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