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Comparative Literary Analysis of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “To His Coy Mistress”

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In Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love,” the shepherd promises certain pleasures if the person he loves will “come live with [him].” The shepherd promises for his love in lines 15-16 “Fair lines slippers for the cold, / With buckles of the purest gold.” amd in lines 17-22,“A belt of straw and ivy buds, / With coral clasps and amber stud,” which is idealistic because in the sixteenth century, gold and other precious metals were not readily available to the general public to purchase. Also, even if one could somehow acquire these expensive luxuries, a shepherd in the 1500s would most likely not have been wealthy enough to afford them. I imagine that a shepherd’s daily life would realistically be very laborious and difficult back then handling all the sheep and having to personally create clothing from wool because resources then were not as advanced as they are now.

In “The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd,” , the nymph finds that there are flaws in the shephard’s idyllic vision. Among the shepherd’s many promises of material luxuries, like when he promises “A belt of straw and ivy buds, / With coral clasps and amber stud,” she knows that the shepherd realistically does not have enough money to bestow her with this luxury item. Also, when the shepherd promises they will “sit upon the rocks, / Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,” the nymph questions how they will be able to spend time together like this when the shepherd has many tasks to complete in his daily life. These idealistic visions lead the nymph to conclude if there really could be “truth in every shepherd’s tongue,” which clearly shows how she believes the shepherd is lying about being able to provide the nymph with all his promises. The nymph agrees to live with the shepherd if youth could last forever and if the weather could forever be in their favor. She knows that what the shepherd promises does not really make sense when she factors in the circumstances, and she makes this clear throughout the poem that she believes these promises are too good to be true and, thus, are not possible.

The tone of the nymph’s response to the shepherd is realistic and disbelieving of the shepherd’s promises of luxurious living and gifts, which is explicitly clear when she says if there really is “truth in every shepherd’s tongue.” In lines 14-15, “Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies. / Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,” she conveys that she understands that what the shepherd promises her are not very practical and he will not be able to follow through on his word or these luxuries will not be able to last for long.

This romantic escape motif is used today in television, movies, music, and literature. In music, a common theme is love and musicians often profess their love through musical lyrics by swearing that they will give whatever to the ones they love whatever they want. Love is also a very central motif in television and movies, and often the males will make promises that seem delightful to the women they love, such as going away and promising a perfect, quiet, luxurious life that is different than the one she is currently living.

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In “To His Coy Mistress,” Marvell is comparing time to a chariot coming to collect someone, signaling that his/her life is over and that no one can escape time. Because of this image, I see a person trying to run as fast as possible from the chariot and extremely tired, scared, and regretful; Simultaneously, I see this person pleading to God to grant him/her more time to do what he/she was too afraid to do earlier in life.

The speaker in Herrick’s ”To the Virgins” says that women should just get married already, so they do not have to spend the rest of their lives alone because they will eventually get married anyways. In this sense, marriage is inevitable, so women should accept their fate and just agree to marriage earlier. I think the speaker in Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” does not feel that marriage is an important task that must be completed as soon as possible like the speaker in Herrick’s poem. The speaker in Marvell’s poem is mainly encouraging his mistress to live in and enjoy the moment with him, showing how he would rather take his time, unlike the urgency of time and marriage represented in Herrick’s poem.

In Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” an example of a hyperbole is in line 2, where he compares his mistress’s coyness to being a crime. He is frustrated that his mistress is not responding to his advances and makes an exaggeration to represent this feeling. Marvell also uses understatement in his poem, which is evident in lines 31-32, “The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none, I think, do there embrace.” This is an understatement of everyone’s inevitable fate, death. This understatement also has the purpose of providing relief from the quite serious subject and tone of the poem and lightening the mood.

Herrick uses the reference to the sun as a way to show how time is fleeting. In lines 5-8, the sun is referred to as the “glorious lamp of heaven,” which means that each time the sun sets, its light burns out and showcases that life is getting closer to coming to an end each time as well. Marvell uses the reference to the sun as a way to personify time and showcase how it is inevitable that time will run out eventually. The last two lines of Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” essentially means that as unfortunate as it is that time, which represents life, will eventually come to an end, the best thing to do is spend as much time living life to the best of one’s ability before it runs out.

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Comparative Literary Analysis of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “To His Coy Mistress”. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2023, from
“Comparative Literary Analysis of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “To His Coy Mistress”.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Comparative Literary Analysis of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “To His Coy Mistress”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2023].
Comparative Literary Analysis of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” and “To His Coy Mistress” [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from:
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