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Slender is one of Anne Page's reject suitors. He's boring, not too bright, acts like he's doing Anne a favor by trying to woo her, and has absolutely no idea how to talk to girls. We're not kidding, Shmoopers. Slender is responsible for some of the worst pick-up lines we've ever heard.
The first time one of Slender's buddies bring up the subject of Anne Page, Slender's all "Mistress Anne Page? She has brown hair, / and speaks small like a woman?" (1.1.47-48). Translation: "You mean that chick with the brown hair and squeaky voice?"
Anyone who's ever read Romeo and Juliet knows that's NOT how you describe the girl of your dreams. Not if you want to marry her, anyway. Think about it. The first time Romeo meets Juliet, he calls her a "saint," says he'd like to "worship" her body, and compares his love for her to a religious experience. Did we mention that Romeo's first conversation with Juliet forms a perfect love sonnet. Pretty intense.
But check out what Slender says when he sees Anne at her parents' house: "O heaven, this is Mistress Anne Page" (1.1.186). Not exactly poetry. No wonder the guy starts looking around for his "book of Songs and Sonnets" (1.1.194) so he can plagiarize something romantic when he chats up Anne. Oh, but he can't even manage to do that because, apparently, he loaned the book to some girl named "Alice Shortcake."
Hmm. Shakespeare the poet doesn't seem to have a lot of respect for guys who depend on cheesy pick-up lines from outdated books of poetry, does he?
What about the first time we see Slender talk to Anne? Well, it's not much better. He brags about some encounter he supposedly had with a ferocious bear and insults our girl by implying that all women are wimps (1.1)
Look. We know what it's like to be tongue-tied around a crush and we've all had our fair share of insanely awkward moments that were supposed to be romantic. But, Slender isn't just a bumbling fool who's got zero game with the ladies. We're not even sure he actually likes Anne, and he sure doesn't love her:
Cousin Abraham Slender, can you love her?
I hope, sir, I will do as it shall become one
that would do reason. (1.1.227-229)
It seems like Slender could care less if she ever agrees to marry him. When his friends pressure him to say whether or not he wants to get hitched, he's all "I will marry her, sir, at your request" (1.1.240). Nope. No fireworks here. It seems like Slender is just going along with his buddies because they think he should get married. (Kind of like agreeing to that double-date you didn't really want to go on but went anyone because your BFF talked you into it. Oh, and she's going to pay for it, because her daddy's loaded.)