Allusion, anti-pastoral, and four centuries of pastoral invitations
Christopher Marlowe's 'Passionate Shepherd to his Love' and Sir Walter Ralegh's 'Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd' were printed, certainly not for the first time, but in what have become their standard versions in Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler. This was the first time 'The Nymph's Reply' was attributed to Ralegh, an attribution which has been generally accepted ever since. Marlowe's 'The Passionate Shepherd to his Love' is a pastoral invitation based on roughly similar invitations in Theocritus, Virgil, and Ovid. Even before the first printed version of Ralegh's reply in 1599, Marlowe's poem had an immediate influence, and must have circulated quickly in manuscript. From England's Helicon to the present, Marlowe's and Ralegh's poems have been paired as standard inclusions in anthologies. A full appreciation of William Wordsworth's 'The Mad Mother' depends on the reader's perception of his deeply ironic troping of earlier poems in the Marlowe-Ralegh tradition.
Hannibal Hamlin focuses on one significant play, A Looking Glasse for London,
by Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene. Called the most popular biblical play of
the Elizabethan stage, it is rich in spectacle and scandal – designed to
succeed in the popular theatre. Yet Hamlin proposes that in both moralising
and stagecraft it looks back to the mystery plays of the earlier fifteenth
century. It thus offers a unique Elizabethan example of staging God himself,
though done in such a peculiar way as to avoid censure.