The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Summary

In "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," the shepherd directly addresses the woman he loves. He entreats her to come live with him and promises to treat her like a queen and make her beds of roses.

  • In the opening stanza, the shepherd speaks to his love, asking her to come live with him.

  • In subsequent stanzas, he lists all the beautiful things he will do for her if she does come live with him. He draws on nature imagery to emphasize her own beauty.

  • He tells her that if she likes the idea of the gifts he's promised, then she should live with him. He ends the poem on this note.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” comprising six stanzas of four lines each, is an intellectual’s vision of pastoral life, in a tradition going back to the Roman poets Theocritus and Vergil. Its undoubted emotional power hinges on its yearning evocation of an idyll that never was and can never be. The wistful invitation of the poet to his love to live with him in this impossibly perfect place evokes the pathos of unfulfilled desire and longing.

The work is rich with images chosen to delight the senses. There is the visual feast of the pastoral landscape and of the belt with coral clasps and amber studs, the soft touch of the gown made from wool pulled from lambs, the sounds of the birds singing melodious madrigals and of the shepherds’ songs, the smell of the beds of roses and of the thousand fragrant posies.

The regular rhyme scheme, of two pairs of rhyming couplets per stanza, the smooth iambic rhythm, and the use of alliteration add to the songlike quality of the poem, and indeed, an adapted version of one of its stanzas appears as a song in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (pr. 1597, revised, c. 1600-1601, pb. 1602).


(Poetry for Students)

Stanza 1: Lines 1–4

In the first stanza of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” Marlowe’s speaker, an...

(The entire section is 1622 words.)