Venus and Adonis (Shakespeare poem)
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.
- In 2004, the Royal Shakespeare Company staged Venus and Adonis with marionettes (Gregory Doran, director).
- During the 2010-2011 season, the Boston Metro Opera staged Venus and Adonis, a chamber opera in one act (duration approximately 40 mins). The libretto is Shakspeare's poem (edited by Gretchen Snedeker (1983-2008), American French horn player and adjunct professor of music at Colgate University). The music is by American composer Zachary Wadsworth (born 1983).
- Doom metal band My Dying Bride used extracts of the poem in the song For My Fallen Angel, on their 1996 album Like Gods of the Sun.
- The Lone Star Ensemble, a theatre company, has presented a fully staged performance of the poem.
- The original poem is read by several British actors (among them David Burke, Eve Best, and Benjamin Soames) on a Naxos audiobook. The audiobook also includes The Rape of Lucrece.
- Richard Burton once recorded a spoken word album of the poem for Caedmon Records.
- Melbourne-based company Malthouse Theatre collaborated with Sydney's Bell Shakespeare to produce a musical adaptation of the work. Directed by Marion Potts, with music by Andree Greenwell, the work was first performed in the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne in 2008 and again in Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf 2 in February 2009. In March 2009, the show travelled to Auckland, New Zealand, and was performed in The Bruce Mason Centre as part of the 2009 Auckland Festival. It was an unusual version of Venus and Adonis starring Melissa Madden-Gray and Susan Prior, both playing the character of Venus. The Adonis character is absent from the stage and is "played" by the audience. Throughout the performance, Venus (Madden-Gray and Prior) attempts to seduce the audience. Venus & Adonis received good reviews in all of its three seasons.
- The popular theme song for the Haunted Mansion attractions at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo Disneyland, "Grim Grinning Ghosts", is derived from a line in Venus and Adonis, in this context:
- ...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".
- "Why is the RSC staging Venus and Adonis with marionettes?". the Guardian.
- Venus and Adonis at the [Boston Metro Opera Archived 1 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- 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).
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- Venus and Adonis at Project Gutenberg
- Venus and Adonis (1593)
- Venus and Adonis – Images from the Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection
- Venus and Adonis public domain audiobook at LibriVox