How does Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" reflect the characteristics of pastoral poetry?

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Pastoral poetry, also called bucolic (relating to pleasant parts of country life) or idyllic (happy and peaceful in an idealized way), is characterized by references to nature, usually involving shepherds and the countryside. This type of poetry is idealistic and presents an innocent and simplistic view of nature and life in the country.

Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” clearly reflects the traits of pastoral poetry. Marlowe’s speaker attempts to convince his love to be with him in the country:

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove ...

The speaker gives various reasons why being with him would benefit the object of his love. He says that they will watch the shepherds tend their flocks, and sit near the rivers, and watch the birds. He promises to “make thee beds of Roses,” a gown “of the finest wool,” and slippers with gold buckles. He also says that the “Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing” every day just for his beloved.

However, the speaker’s arguments are quite unrealistic and unrelated to true reasons why people should be together. The argument is a simplistic one, reasoning that to be happy, people just need to sit idly enjoying nature. He does not describe a real relationship but a fantasy one, and his argument hinges on the idea that country life is all it takes to be happy. There is no mention of daily responsibilities and problems that are part of any human’s existence. Thus, Marlowe’s speaker simplifies life and innocently equates happiness with the peaceful countryside.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 11, 2019
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