Marlowe, Raleigh, Shakespeare, and Donne. The Poets and the Poems. The Life of Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). Christopher Marlow (1564-1593). Life Stats. Born—February 6, 1564 in Canterbury, England Baptized Catholic Eldest son of a shoemaker Lived during the same time as Shakespeare
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Born—February 6, 1564 in Canterbury, England
Eldest son of a shoemaker
Lived during the same time as Shakespeare
English poet and dramatist
Christopher Marlowe sets the poem in early spring in a rural locale (presumably in England) where shepherds tend their flocks. The use of the word madrigals (Line 8)–referring to poems set to music and sung by two to six voices with a single melody or interweaving melodies–suggests that the time is the 16th Century, when madrigals were highly popular in England and elsewhere in Europe. However, the poem could be about any shepherd of any age in any country, for such is the universality of its theme.
“The Passionate Shepherd” is a pastoral poem. Pastoral poems generally center on the love of a shepherd for a maiden (as in Marlowe’s poem), on the death of a friend, or on the quiet simplicity of rural life. The writer of a pastoral poem may be an educated city dweller, like Marlowe, who extolls the virtues of a shepherd girl or longs for the peace and quiet of the country. Pastoral is derived from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd.
The theme of “The Passionate Shepherd” is the rapture of springtime love in a simple, rural setting. Implicit in this theme is the motif of carpe diem–Latin for “seize the day.” Carpe diem urges people to enjoy the moment without worrying about the future.
In each stanza, the first line rhymes with the second, and the third rhymes with the fourth. The meter is iambic tetrameter, with eight syllables (four iambic feet) per line. (An iambic foot consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.) The following graphic presentation illustrates the rhyme scheme and meter of Stanza 1:
Come LIVE.|.with ME.|.and BE.|.my LOVE,
And WE.|.will ALL.|.the PLEA.|.sures PROVE
That HILLS.|.and VALL.|.eys, DALE.|.and FIELD,
And ALL.|.the CRAG.|.gy MOUNT.|.ains YIELD.
Over the centuries, Marlowe’s little poem has enjoyed widespread popularity because it captures the joy of simple, uncomplicated, love. The shepherd does not worry whether his status makes him acceptable to the girl; nor does he appear concerned about money or education. The future will take carry of itself. What matters is the moment. So, he says, let us enjoy it–sitting on a rock listening to the birds.
b) What things does he offer her that he cannot possibly provide?
a) What effect is created by this near repetition?
b) Instead of ending with this refrain-like repetition, the shepherd goes on for another stanza. Does the promise of the final stanza add anything new to the promises made earlier? If so, what does it add?
Born: October 1552 in Devon
Died: October 29, 1618 in London
Religion: Born to a prominent Protestant family
"The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd"
b) How does she follow up this attack?
a) Why does this last stanza begin with "But?"
b) How are lines 19 and 20 transformed in lines 23 and 24.
c) Describe the change in attitude in the last stanza in the poem, and how it affects your evaluation of the nymph's reply.
The Reasons Behind Shakespeare's Influence and Popularity
Ben Jonson anticipated Shakespeare’s dazzling future when he declared, "He was not of an age, but for all time!" in the preface to the First Folio. While most people know that Shakespeare is, in fact, the most popular dramatist and poet the Western world has ever produced, students new to his work often wonder why this is so.
The following are the top four reasons why Shakespeare has stood the test of time.
Shakespeare’s ability to summarize the range of human emotions in simple yet profoundly eloquent verse is perhaps the greatest reason for his enduring popularity. If you cannot find words to express how you feel about love or music or growing older, Shakespeare can speak for you. No author in the Western world has penned more beloved passages. Shakespeare's work is the reason John Bartlett compiled the first major book of familiar quotations.
• The seven ages of man• Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?• We band of brothers• The green-eyed monster• What's in a name? • Now is the winter of our discontent• If music be the food of love• Beware the ides of March• We are such stuff as dreams are made on• Something is rotten in the state of Denmark• To be, or not to be: that is the question
Marchette Chute, in the Introduction to her famous retelling of Shakespeare’s stories, summarizes one of the reasons for Shakespeare’s immeasurable fame:
William Shakespeare was the most remarkable storyteller that the world has ever known. Homer told of adventure and men at war, Sophocles and Tolstoy told of tragedies and of people in trouble. Terence and Mark Twain told cosmic stories, Dickens told melodramatic ones, Plutarch told histories and Hand Christian Andersen told fairy tales. But Shakespeare told every kind of story – comedy, tragedy, history, melodrama, adventure, love stories and fairy tales – and each of them so well that they have become immortal. In all the world of storytelling he has become the greatest name. (Stories from Shakespeare, 11)
Shakespeare's stories transcend time and culture. Modern storytellers continue
to adapt Shakespeare’s tales to suit our modern world, whether it be the tale of
Lear on a farm in Iowa, Romeo and Juliet on the mean streets of New York City,
or Macbeth in feudal Japan.
1. How does Shakespeare use language and metaphor to present the young man’s beauty in Sonnet 18?
2. What question does the poetic speaker ask himself in the opening lines of this sonnet? What does he ultimately decide about whether or not this comparison is a good one?
3. What are some of the problems with a summer's day that the poet discusses in the first eight lines? What does the poet mean when he says, "But thy eternal summer shall not fade"?
4. The poet also promises, "Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade." Does this seem possible or plausible as a promise?
5. The last two lines, however, limit the promise to "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." What does the "this" refer to? How does "this" continue to give this young man/woman life--even four hundred years after Shakespeare wrote the poem?
1. In Sonnet 29, what two moods are contrasted?
2. What kind of men does the speaker say he envies?
3. What causes his change of mood in the last few lines of the poem?
4. Judging from the reference in lines 11-12, what would you say the lark symbolizes?
1. What, according to Shakespeare, are the acts in a man’s life?
2. What is Shakespeare’s concept of life?
3. Lines 152-153:
a) Name the stage in man’s life.
b) What is the figure of speech in the first line?
c) Why does the lover sigh?
4. Lines 155-157:
a) Who is referred to here?
b) What are the distinguishing features of the soldier?
5. Lines 165 – 166:
a) In which act is the man playing this part?
b) What features of old age are mentioned here?
6. Lines 143-147:
a) What poetic device is used in these lines?
b) To what in man’s life does the poet compare the exits and entrances of the stage to?
c) Explain the phrase “one man in his time.”
7. Lines 149-151:
a) Which stage of human life is described in these lines?
b) What are the words or phrases which indicate that the boy is not willing to go to school?
8. Lines 154 – 157:
a) Which stage of human life is described in the above lines? What are the main characteristics of this stage?
b) What is the “bubble reputation” and how is it linked with the cannon’s mouth?
9. Lines 157-161:
a) How does a man look in this stage of life?
b) What does he do to show his wisdom? Why?
10. How is the last stage of a man’s life described?
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."– John Donne, 1624, Meditation XVII
XVII.Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debtTo Nature, and to hers, and my good is dead,And her soul early into heaven ravishèd,Wholly on heavenly things my mind is set.Here the admiring her my mind did whetTo seek thee, God; so streams do show the head;But though I have found thee, and thou my thirst hast fed,A holy thirsty dropsy melts me yet.But why should I beg more love, whenas thouDost woo my soul, for hers offering all thine:And dost not only fear lest I allowMy love to saints and angels, things divine,But in thy tender jealousy dost doubtLest the world, flesh, yea, devil put thee out.
Title and Publication Information
The poem first appeared as “Holy Sonnet X” in a collection of 19 sonnets by John Donne (1572-1631). However, its title came to be known as “Death, Be Not Proud” (after the first four words of the poem). It was written between 1601 and 1610—the exact year is uncertain—and published after Donne died.
Type of Work
“Death, Be Not Proud" is a sonnet (14-line poem) similar in format to that established in Italy by Petrarch (1304-1374), a Roman Catholic priest who popularized the sonnet form before it was adopted and modified in England. Petrarch's sonnets each consist of an eight-line stanza (octave) and a six-line stanza (sestet). The first stanza presents a theme, and the second stanza develops it.
1. Why does Donne consistently capitalize the word death?
2. What is the tone in Donne’s poem? Defend your answer.
3. Give an interpretation of the title of the poem.
4. Why would the poet write “think’st” and “swell’st” instead of writing “thinkest” and “swellest”?
“Death Be Not Proud” is among the most famous and most beloved poems in English literature. Its popularity lies in its message of hope couched in eloquent, quotable language. Donne’s theme tells the reader that death has no right to be proud, since human beings do not die but live eternally after “one short sleep.” Although some people depict death as mighty and powerful, it is really a lowly slave that depends on luck, accidents, decrees, murder, disease, and war to put men to sleep. But a simple poppy (whose seeds provide a juice to make a narcotic) and various charms (incantations, amulets, spells, etc.) can also induce sleep—and do it better than death can. After a human being’s soul leaves the body and enters eternity, it lives on; only death dies.
Abrams, M.H., ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987. Print.
Boldt, Danielle, Sarah Carlin, and Erin Maguire. "The Life of Christopher Marlowe." Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593). LtWr 308 A, n.d. Web. 28 Mar 2010.<http://public.csusm.edu/marlowe/index.html>.
Carey, John. Introduction. John Donne: A Critical Edition of the Major Works. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990. xix-xxxii. Print.
Jokinen, Anniina. "The Life of John Donne." Luminarium.22 June 2006. Web. 27 May 2010.
Mabillard, Amanda. Why Study Shakespeare? Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (January 31st, 2011) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/whystudyshakespeare.html >.