Who is the speaker in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the simplest of terms, the speaker in Marlowe's poem is a shepherd who is love with another person.  From the title, it becomes clear that the subject of the pastoral poem is an unnamed shepherd who declares his love to another in the first line:  "“Come live with me, and be my love."  The shepherd continues to speak in terms of enticing the object of his love to remain with him in the countryside.  Assurances such as "There will I make thee beds of roses," "The shepherd swains shall dance and sing" along with "buckles made of the purest gold" and "a belt of straw and ivory buds" are given to ensure that both the shepherd and his love remain together.  

The entire frame of reference spoken throughout the poem is one in which the shepherd speaks to this particular person.  The shepherd wants to convince this person to remain with him in the countryside.  It is evident that with so many promises, it is a difficult proposition.  Yet, the shepherd is convinced of the authenticity of his convictions and promises.  This sense of commitment underscores how he is the speaker in the poem.  It is through his voice that the reader comes to understand Marlowe's depiction of what seems to be an idealized construction of love in the naturally pastoral setting.