Venus and Adonis (Shakespeare poem)

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Title page of the first quarto (1593)

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.


As Adonis is preparing to go hunting, Venus "seizeth on his sweating palm" and "Backward she push'd him, as she would be thrust" (for purposes of sexual intercourse). We find next that "Panting he lies, and breatheth in her face", while Venus tells him "Be bold to play, our sport is not in sight." She persuades him to kiss him, although Adonis is not very interested, thinking he is too young, and cares only for hunting. After they part, Adonis is soon killed in a hunting "accident".

The poem contains what may be Shakespeare's most graphic depiction of sexual excitement.


...Hateful divorce of love,'—thus chides she Death,—
'Grim-grinning ghost, earth's worm, what dost thou mean
To stifle beauty and to steal his breath,
Who when he liv'd, his breath and beauty set
Gloss on the rose, smell to the violet?''
  • A theatrical adaptation, William Shakespeare's Venus & Adonis, with an original score and songs by Christopher Reiner, was performed by Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group in North Hollywood, California, for five weeks in August and September 2006. LA Weekly described it: "six women, clothed in black, recite the poem while weaving around the stage in a sensual, interpretive dance".[3]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Why is the RSC staging Venus and Adonis with marionettes?". the Guardian. 
  2. ^ Venus and Adonis at the [Boston Metro Opera Archived 1 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Review by Stephanie Lysaght in LA Weekly, 31 August 2006.


  • Caldecott, Harry Stratford: Our English Homer; or, the Bacon-Shakespeare Controversy (Johannesburg Times, 1895).
  • Gurr, Andrew: The Shakespearean Stage: 1574–1642 (Cambridge, 1992).
  • Halliday, F. E.: A Shakespeare Companion: 1564–1964. (Penguin, 1964).

External links[edit]