The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

by Christopher Marlowe

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In "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," what action does the speaker urge his love to take?

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"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" by Christopher Marlowe is written in what is called the pastoral style. This was a style of poetry quite common in Marlowe's day, a style that presented an idealized view of rural life, an idyll usually populated by satyrs, dryads, cavorting nymphs, and other lesser deities of Greek and Roman mythology.

In the first line, the speaker invites his lover to

Come live with me and be my love

He goes on to present the object of his affections with a sumptuous visual feast of natural beauty that he hopes will entice her to come and live with him:

And we will all the pleasures prove, 
That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields, 
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
The speaker is gently trying to persuade his love; he feels that, if he can present a sufficiently appealing picture of their life together, then she will relent. Perhaps the narrator senses a certain ambivalence on her part. Perhaps the speaker's love finds the whole idea too good to be true. Time for the speaker to turn up the charm, and say it with flowers:
And I will make thee beds of Roses 
And a thousand fragrant posies, 
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle 
Embroidered all with leaves of Myrtle
Not only that, but our speaker will even create a brand new wardrobe for his lady love:
A gown made of the finest wool  Which from our pretty Lambs we pull;  Fair lined slippers for the cold,  With buckles of the purest gold;    A belt of straw and Ivy buds,  With Coral clasps and Amber studs
It all sounds quite heavenly. But the narrator still feels that he needs to seal the deal:
The Shepherds’ Swains shall dance and sing  For thy delight each May-morning:  If these delights thy mind may move,  Then live with me, and be my love.
So there we are. There is an offer of ravishing natural beauty, the most divine new wardrobe imaginable, and the sweet, harmonious tones of shepherds' panpipes as the couple dances delightfully, basking in the warm, radiant glow of Maytime dawn. This is the sublime Arcadian vision set before the speaker's lover.   But despite Marlowe's best efforts we are still far from certain as to whether or not his beloved will accept this tempting offer. For one thing, we don't anything about her, or what kind of world she'd like to inhabit. Maybe she is a nymph, and doesn't want to spend time with a mortal swain whose looks will one day fade. This is what Sir Walter Raleigh suggests in his classic rejoinder, "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd."   Unless we get the lady lover's side of the story, then we will remain uncertain as to what will happen. And it's this uncertainty that makes "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" much more than just a conventional love poem in the pastoral style.

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