Denying The Ideal : Comparison Between The Speakers And ' The Nymph 's Reply Of The Shepherd '

Denying The Ideal : Comparison Between The Speakers And ' The Nymph 's Reply Of The Shepherd '

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Denying the Ideal: The Comparison of the Speakers in
“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd”
Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh both create speakers who disagree about the nature of romantic love. The titles of the twin poems, “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” by Marlowe, and “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” by Raleigh, show that they are two sides of a rhetorical exchange. The poems’ structures are identical; each of the shepherd’s optimistic requests has a corresponding refusal from the nymph. Although the word choice and meters are similar in the two poems, the shepherd uses an optimistic tone while the nymph uses a pessimistic one. While both speakers are addressing the concept of love, their distinct uses of diction and imagery underscore how the shepherd’s optimism conflicts with the nymph’s skepticism.
In Marlowe 's poem, the romantic shepherd expresses his emotions in an idyllic setting. The title directly informs the reader that the shepherd is “passionate,” but the word “shepherd” is essential to identifying the speaker. A shepherd tends to and watches over his flock, and this shepherd speaks as if he will act in a similar way with his love: “come live with me and be my love.” Moreover, he does not focus so much on the appearance of his lover or himself, but on the “pleasures” and “delights” that he will give her if she accepts his offer. For instance, his offer to “make thee beds of roses” is a way of showering her with luxury. Furthermore, he says they will sit by “shallow rivers;” the word “shallow” suggests transparency and simplicity, implying that he desires instant gratification. The shepherd 's emphasis on luxury and pleasures shows that he is motivated t...


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...choice and imagery by both Marlowe and Raleigh draw attention to the conflicting tones in the speakers of the poems. When reading the poems together in this way, the significance of the poems as separate pieces changes completely. Marlowe’s effort to romanticize the idea of love and to provoke an emotional feeling is immediately exposed as an illusion in Raleigh’s poem of reply. In effect, these complementary poems raise the possibility that at the same time the nymph is replying to the shepherd’s proposal, Raleigh is responding to the idea of love conveyed in Marlowe’s poem. As Marlowe’s poem represents the optimistic, romanticized view of a perfect union, Raleigh represents the reality that real love almost never follows that course. Raleigh responds to the way people think about love and poetry while writing about a nymph replying to a shepherd 's request of love.

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