What's love got to do with it? In "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love," it's hard to tell. The opening line encourages us to think of the poem in terms of romantic interest, but it's not like these two are headed to the marriage altar anytime soon. In fact, we can't even tell if this guy has any intention to drop down on one knee. The poem undoubtedly plays upon romantic ideals, but to what ends? Does the speaker genuinely want love? Or does he just want a roll in the bed of roses?
The speaker is not interested in a long-term relationship. Not to be crass about it, but he's, shall we say, not interested in her soul.
Love plays a central role in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." He totally loves her, no matter what the cynics say.
"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" takes place where the grass is always green, nothing ever dies, and nature is in complete harmony with all of man's whims, needs, and desires. So it's no wonder that the speaker uses nature and all its awesomeness as a convenient way to woo his lady love. Is there anything sexier than… sheep? Okay, so there are plenty of things sexier than sheep, but for our speaker, the pastoral world might as well be the most romantic restaurant in town.
Marlowe presents an idealized picture of nature in an attempt to satirize the unrealistic visions of the countryside held by city-dwellers. Basically, he's making fun of the folks who think the key to happiness lies in roughing it.
Marlowe's choice to portray a pastoral world signifies his dissatisfaction with modern society and urbanization. It is a veiled longing for a return to simpler times.
Ah the subtle art of persuasion. In the case of "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love", the word "art" can be taken both literally and figuratively. The speaker of the poem has cleverly and artfully designed what he thinks will be a winning argument, but he has used art, or artifice, to pull it off in the form of poetry. Does the speaker succeed? Does it matter? Tell us what you think, and remember… be convincing.
This dude is totally convincing. He basically promises the object of his affections a long, torturous camping trip, complete with really weird outfits and awkward serenades.
The speaker of this poem is persuasive, but untrustworthy. Which means the addressee should run for her life.
The Rolling Stones thought time was on their side, and that seems to be the case for our speaker, as well. The speaker in "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is writing what we call a carpe diem poem—he's seizing the day. In literature, the carpe diem tradition usually features a man trying to convince a beautiful maiden to surrender her virginity pronto because she could drop dead at any minute and wouldn't it be a shame for her to die without ever having had sex, especially with him. It's employed a little less obviously in this poem than in others (we're looking at you, Marvell), but the general vibe is still there: come live me with and be my love, we'll have a great time and we'll worry about all that future stuff, like your reputation, later.
The references to springtime, flowers, and fertility in the poem are symbolic of the fact that the speaker's interest in the addressee is oh so temporary.
The poem's implementation of the carpe diem tradition is a clear indication that Marlowe sees the speaker of this poem as male and the addressee as female.