The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Questions and Answers
by Christopher Marlowe

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Explain the poem "The Passionate Sheperd to his Love" by Christopher Marlowe. If you can provide the literary terms that are in this poem,too, it will be great.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In this poem, the narrator is trying to convince the woman to whom he is sexually attracted to become his lover. He paints an idyllic picture of how they will live a life together in nature. They'll roam hills and valleys and sit on rocks and watch shepherds herd their sheep. The narrator also describes how he will make a bed of roses for his beloved and create her clothing from natural items such as flowers, myrtle, and wool pulled from lambs, as well as from ivy, coral, and amber. Having painted this lovely picture, he appeals directly to his beloved: if these scenes of pleasure move you, he says, come live with me and be my love.

This is a fantasy idea of natural living. There is no labor involved and no downside: no insects, no discomforts, no cold or rain. Likewise, the poet never dwells on the downside of love, its arguments and tense moments.

The main literary device Marlowe uses is a piling up a rich, sensory images in order to beguile his beloved: melodious birds, fragrant posies, beds of roses, dancing and singing. Notably, he appeals to her physically, not spiritually, just as the love he wants to share with her is physical, not spiritual.

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Christopher Marlowe’s poem, “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love” is a poem written in the pastoral genre, a type of poem deriving from the works of Greek poet Theocritus, and typically set in an idyllic rural landscape, populated with happy shepherds and farmers, often including romantic themes.

It is written in four stanzas of iambic trimeter rhymed as couplets, i.e. aabb.

One of the major themes is “carpe diem” (seize the day), the notion that as time slips away, it’s important to enjoy immediate sensual delights and take opportunities for love and pleasure as they become available. Thus the shepherd promises a set of imaginary luxuries to the shepherdess as emblems of the pleasures of love.

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