Venus and Adonis

Overview

Venus and Adonis is a poem by William Shakespeare, written in 1592-1593, with a plot based on passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work, using constantly shifting tone and perspective to present contrasting views of the nature of love.
Venus and Adonis was entered into the Stationers' Register on 18 April 1593; less than two months later the poem appeared in a quarto edition, published and printed by Richard Field, a Stratford-upon-Avon man and a ...
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Venus and Adonis

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Overview

Venus and Adonis is a poem by William Shakespeare, written in 1592-1593, with a plot based on passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work, using constantly shifting tone and perspective to present contrasting views of the nature of love.
Venus and Adonis was entered into the Stationers' Register on 18 April 1593; less than two months later the poem appeared in a quarto edition, published and printed by Richard Field, a Stratford-upon-Avon man and a close contemporary of Shakespeare. Field released a second quarto in 1594, then transferred his copyright to John Harrison ("the Elder"), the stationer who published the first edition of The Rape of Lucrece, also in 1594. Subsequent editions of Venus and Adonis were in octavo format rather than quarto; Harrison issued the third edition (O1) probably in 1595, and the fourth (O2) in 1596 (both of Harrison's editions were printed by Field). The poem's copyright then passed to William Leake, who published two editions (O3, O4) in 1599 alone, with perhaps four (O5, O6, O7, and O8) in 1602. The copyright passed to William Barrett in 1617; Barrett issued O9 that same year. Five more editions appeared by 1640 - making the poem, with 16 editions in 47 years, one of the great popular successes of its era.
Venus and Adonis comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 10, known to Shakespeare in the translation by Arthur Golding (1567, with subsequent revisions). Ovid told of how Venus took the beautiful Adonis as her first mortal lover. They were long-time companions, with the goddess hunting alongside her lover. She warns him of the tale of Atalanta and Hippomenes to dissuade him from hunting dangerous animals; he disregards the warning, and is killed by a boar.

Shakespeare developed this basic narrative into a poem of 1,194 lines. His chief innovation was to make Adonis refuse Venus's offer of herself. It has been argued (by Erwin Panofsky) that Shakespeare might have seen a copy of Titian's 'Venus and Adonis', a painting that could be taken to show Adonis refusing to join Venus in embraces. However Shakespeare had already shown a liking for activist heroines, forced to woo and pursue an evasive male in The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The other innovation was a kind of observance of the Aristotelian unities: the action takes place in one location, lasts from morning till morning, and focuses on the two main characters.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9783849558321
  • Publisher: TREDITION CLASSICS
  • Publication date: 8/14/2013
  • Pages: 52
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.12 (d)

Meet the Author

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) - 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, the authorship of some of which is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories and these works remain regarded as some the best work produced in these genres even today. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as "not of an age, but for all time."

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century.

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