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Alanna Russell

October 18, 2018


English 325-01
Paper #1

“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”

In Christopher Marlowe’s, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”, the speaker draws in

the audience and proposes a romantic invitation of love with the use of formal elements

including imagery, stanza structure, rhythm, and repetition. He creates sensory perception in the

minds of the audience by describing what his and the woman he is proposing to lives will be like

if she should choose to accept his invitation. The speaker is the sole voice within the poem and

there is no response from the woman he is addressing. The audience is given little knowledge

about whom the speaker is addressing and what she is like other than her being described as the

speaker’s “love”. The speaker uses certain word choice and language to portray an idyllic life

that is used to convince her that she should accept his offer. The audience is looking in on and

observing this offer of what seems to be a whimsical and enchanting life, but also one with hard

work that comes with living as a shepherd’s wife.

The speaker of the poem is the “passionate shepherd” and he is addressing the woman he

wants to be with, “his love”. The speaker is addressing “his love” while we the readers are

observing this proposal. The speaker has one motivation for speaking and that is to be with the

woman that he is addressing. The audience learns who the speaker is not only from the title of

the poem but from the use of descriptions that show what they will be doing once she comes and

lives with him, “A gown made of the finest wool/ Which from our pretty Lambs we pull” (13-

14). This shows that the speaker is addressing that even though he is proposing this invitation to

“his love” to come live with him in this beautiful setting, there will also be hard work that comes

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with living and working on a farm. The speaker uses romantic language to not only declare his

love but to also convince her and the audience that it will be a worthwhile life.

The use of the flowery language and beautiful imagery throughout the poem bends the

minds of the audience to think right away that the speaker will provide a life without hardships

or dismay. “A belt of straw and Ivy buds/ With Coral clasps and Amber studs” (17-18). But if

one takes a closer look at this use of language and the meaning of the words, it shows the

audience that these are items that can be made from nature and that come of the earth. The

speaker’s use of beautiful images and the flow that comes from his descriptions makes what he is

talking about sound a lot more captivating than it really may be. Since the woman he is

addressing does not have a voice or a response in this poem, the audience takes on the role of

thinking about his proposal and what her response might be. As an audience, we see the use of

the imagery and end-rhyme that make this poem sound like a delightful dream, “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;” (9-12). The use of these formal elements within the poem has an

effect on the way we as an audience interpret it. The words chosen have a certain rhythm that

would make some fall for the shepherd’s proposal but once one takes a deeper look and really

thinks about the words that the speaker is saying, it would show the adverse side to the

enchanting life that he is promising.

The stanza structure of the poem also lends into the feel that it gives to that of a proposal

and the way that the audience interprets it. The way that the poem is laid out shows an organized

plan that the shepherd has for “his love”. The first stanza is the initial invitation and the

introduction of the setting of the poem, the second stanza shows what they will be doing once

she comes to live with him, the third, fourth, and fifth stanzas shows all that he can offer to her,

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and the fifth stanza repeats the proposal in case any of what he proposed was of interest to her.

The use of repetition throughout the stanzas gives the audience a sense of how serious and

dedicated the speaker is to having this woman come and be with him. He lays out the invitation

in a very ordered way and that convinces the audience that he has thought long and hard about it.

The poem limits our relationship to the speaker by creating a world in which only the speaker

and “his love” would be living in. The audience has limited knowledge of whether or not the

speaker has even met the woman he is addressing yet. The audience of the poem is looking in on

a love struck speaker who is trying to convince this woman with all that he has got to give him a

chance, “If these delights thy mind may move/ Then live with me, and be my love” (23-24). But

that is the extent to what we know about the speaker. The audience is at first pulled in by the

romantic language throughout the poem but then once looked at further, the audience has

questions about the speaker and his plan.

“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” involves the speaker, audience, and formal

elements to create a poem that feels like a romantic proposal at first but soon becomes a poem

that has many questions from its audience. After reading this poem, audiences feel good from all

of the flowery romance that is proposed but a more practical sense comes out once we start

questioning the logistics of what life will really be like for the speaker and the woman he is

addressing.