Setting in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Setting Examples in The Passionate Shepherd to His Love:

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love 5

"May morning..."   (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love)

Notice that these singers delight in each “May morning” as if every morning of the year is May. This fixed time enhances the pastoral setting. This is a world where time does not progress, and death, winter, and decay are not acknowledged or real. The speaker’s description of the place promises his lover an edenic paradise.

"swains..."   (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love)

The noun “swain” refers to several positions or vocations usually performed by men. In the pastoral tradition, “swain” came to mean a gallant country lover and wooer. Here, the speaker calls the swains the “shepherds’” which means the swains belong to them. They are farm laborers for the shepherds. However, in pastoral style, the swains are depicted as dancing and singing rather than working. This imagery adds to the idyllic unreal landscape that the speaker paints for his lover.

"lambs..."   (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love)

Notice that the speaker uses that word “lamb” to describe his flock rather than using the word “sheep.” Lambs are baby sheep, and their name has been adopted as an adjective to describe people with a meek, gentle or innocent disposition. It is also used to describe members of a church congregation in the Christian tradition. The use of this word adds to the edenic or idyllic tone of the poem: down to the animals that these shepherds raise, everything is innocent, gentle, and simple.

" ..."   (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love)

The birds’ ability to sing “madrigals” together suggests an almost supernatural ability to sing complex music. This type of melodious birdsong personifies the creatures and adds to the dream-like, pastoral landscape of the setting.

"Come live with me and be my love..."   (The Passionate Shepherd to His Love)

Marlowe’s poem begins with a romantic invocation in a romantic setting. From the title, we can assume that the speaker is a shepherd and the addressee of the poem is the object of his affection. Shepherds were people who guarded, tended, and herded animals, such as sheep. In Marlowe’s time, they would have been part of the poor, rural classes that were often idealized in poetry.