Comparing Sir Walter Raleigh's The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd to Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

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Comparing Sir Walter Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" to Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"

Sir Walter Raleigh wrote "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" in 1600 to respond to Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" written in 1599. In " The Passionate Shepherd to His Love", the Shepherd used double-entendres and hidden sexual images in an attempt to trick the Nymph into performing sexual intercourse with him. The Shepherd attempted to convince the Nymph that he would bestow her the various presents and pleasures that he described, but in reality his gifts only comprised of sexual meanings. However, the Nymph was exceedingly intelligent and conscious of the Shepherd's hidden seductions. She was so smart, that she hastily rejected the Shepherd's proposal by using the exact words that the Shepherd used in his request.

The Shepherd in Marlowe's poem used disguised sexual images in hope that the Nymph would be attracted to him. The Shepherd first offered the Nymph "...valleys, groves, hills, and fields, / woods, or steepy mountain yields" ( ). He hopes that the Nymph would interpret the images as places he would like to take her, but in actuality the Shepherd was describing to the Nymph the various parts and curves of her body which he would like to explore. The Nymph replies to his offer by stating "The flowers do fade, and wanton fields, / to wayward winter reckoning yields " ( ). Which means that things change and though the Shepherd has a sexually unrestrained body, that through time he will become headstrong and unwilling to continue the sexual pleasures.

As the poem continues, the Shepherd offers the Nymph "a belt of straw and ivy buds" ( ). The belt and ...

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... have moved you, then come live with me so that we may continue making these "pleasures". The Nymph replied with "If truth in every shepherd's tongue/ these pretty pleasures might me move" (2-3). She would be moved by what the Shepherd said if he wanted more from her than just a sexual relationship.

Through reading the works by Marlowe and Raleigh it's determined that the shepherd had only sexual feelings for the Nymph. The poems showed no acts of love, only sexual desires that the Shepherd was feeling and a strong sense of rejection from the Nymph. The Nymph did an extraordinary job of standing up for herself. The Shepherd failed in his plan to trick the Nymph and ended up looking like a jackass.

Works Cited:

Marlowe, Christopher. "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." From The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Sixth ed. New York: Norton, 1993.
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