Q:

What is the tone of "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"?

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Quick Answer

"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is as passionate as the title may imply, an imploring love poem from a shepherd character to his beloved. Although not quite coercive, the shepherd (who is the speaker of the poem, which gives him certain elements of control) defines the conversation between himself and his beloved.

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Composed by the Elizabethan poet Christopher Marlowe, who lived and wrote during Shakespeare's era, this poem provides an example of the Renaissance era's approach to love poetry. Its narrative is of a shepherd imploring his beloved to "come live with me and be my love," as in the famous first line, and detailing all the pleasures of a rural country life. The delights which the poet, or shepherd, uses as examples to his love are simple ones, extremely floral and natural in scope, such as madrigals, posies or lamb-wool gowns. The tone of the poem stops short of coercing, deciding instead to focus on the benefits if the beloved were to live with him; these external "delights" are meant to move the beloved's mind and inspire them to, as in the first stanza, "live with me and be my love." Multiple responses to this poem have been written in a similar style or using a similar conceit, proving that the simplicity of the poet-shepherd's appeal reaches even modern audiences. Raleigh, a contemporary of Marlowe, wrote a reply poem entitled "A Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"

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