In "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," what are the points of debate?I am contrasting/comparing Marlowe's "Passionate Shepherd" to Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply."

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since Sir Walter's Raliegh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" is written as the woman's response to Marlowe's invitational lyric, it becomes apparent to the reader of these two poems that Marlowe's verses are the proposal, the other the reply.

Thus, Christopher Marlowe's wooing lyric is simply that--a wooing; it is not a dialogue.  For, stanza after stanza, the speaker suggests arrangements that will lure the woman to "come live" with him and be his "love."  There is no promise of marriage or any other permanency as this invitation exists only in static time. (Now, as it turns out, this becomes a point to which the nymph of Raleigh's poem replies.)

Come live with mee, and be my love,

And we will all the pleasures prove,

That Vallies, grove, hills and fieldes,

Woods, or steepie mountaine yeeldes.

The use of couplets indicates the self-containment of thoughts that suggest no permanency. For, all the invitations of the shepherd are under the theme of carpe diem--seizing the moment. In each stanza the shepherd expands upon his offers, utilizing pastoral beauties to lure the woman to come and revel in the natural moments of their passion.  After they partake of love, the shepherd and his love can enjoy the pastoral seen as they "sit upon the Rocks." He will create beds of roses and others flowers, even using the leaves of myrtle, a flower dedicated to the goddess Venus. Romantic entertainment will come in the form of a madrigal, a light song about romantic love. Other proposals of the shepherd are offered in subsequent stanzas.

 In stanza three,  with the shepherd's offer of posies, there is a double entendre upon the word posies as it suggests flowers and short poems written as mementos of love. Then, in stanza four, he offers the woman a beautiful gown made from "pulled wool," decorated with coral clasps and amber studs, and slippers of gold. Then, in stanza six, the speaker tells his love that there will be other shepherds, or swains, to celebrate their love "each May-morning." And, finally, the shepherd closes with the promise that each day will bring her new delights if she will only be his love.


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