“Why So Pale and Wan, Fond Lover?” by Sir John Suckling


Why so pale and wan fond lover?
Prithee why so pale?
Will, when looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale?

Why so dull and mute young sinner?
Prithee why so mute?
Will, when speaking well can’t win her,
Saying nothing do’t?
Prithee why so mute?

Quit, quit for shame, this will not move,
This cannot take her;
If of herself she will not love,
Nothing can make her;
The devil take her.

Analysis

In Sir John Suckling’s “Why so pale and wan fond lover?,” two men are discussing how one of them can’t make a woman fall in love with him no matter what he does. The speaker repeatedly asks the other man why he’s so pale and so quiet. He sees that his efforts were futile and useless and he advises his friend to give up on the girl since nothing is working.
Probably the most shocking part is the ending when he say “Quit, quit for shame, this will not move, / This cannot take her; / If of herself she will not love, / Nothing can make her; / The devil take her.” It’s gotten to the point where he tells his friend that he should give up on her and she’ll go to hell.

Vocabulary
wan – weary, ill, unhappy
prithee – please; alternate to “I pray thee”

Questions
1. What is the speaker’s tone by the end of the poem?
The speaker seems to give up hope and surrenders the woman to the devil. He has asked whether looking ill (not beautiful) and staying quiet will keep her from sinning. By the end, he has decided these qualities cannot save a person who does not love and lacks self-respect.

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2. To whom is the speaker addressing?
There are two possible answers: the speaker is speaking to himself or he is speaking to another man about that man’s love.

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