and Adonis is narrative poem—that is, a poem that tells a story—about
the infatuation of Venus, the goddess of love, with a young mortal named
Adonis. The poem contains 1,194 lines.
dedicated Venus and Adonis to Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl
of Southampton. Wriothesley (1573-1624) was a patron of Shakespeare and
other writers of the time. Although Wriothesley was a favorite at the court
of Queen Elizabeth I, his association with the headstrong Robert Devereux,
the Second Earl of Essex—another fixture at court—led him to take part
in Devereux’s 1601 rebellion against the queen. Wriothesley was sentenced
to life imprisonment.
Source . .......Metamorphoses,
by the Roman poet Ovid (full name, Publius Ovidius Naso). Shakespeare may
also have used Scilla’s Metamorphosis (1589), by Thomas Lodge.,
and Book III of The Faerie Queene (1591), by Edmund Spenser.
May 18, 1593, the poem was entered in the Hall Book of the Worshipful
Company of Stationers, the English government's pre-publication registry.
It was published in a quarto edition in 1593 by Richard Field, a printer.
sets the story in a rural locale in ancient Greece in the age of myth,
when the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus frequently interacted with
rhyme scheme is ababcc in a six-line stanza, as demonstrated in the opening
stanza of the poem:
as the sun with purple-colour'd face ..............B...Had
ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Adonis hied him to the chase;
he loved, but love he laugh'd to scorn;
Venus makes amain unto him,
like a bold-faced suitor 'gins to woo him.
of the lines in the poem are in iambic pentameter,
five pairs of syllables (five feet) per line. Each pair consists of an
unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable The following lines
demonstrate this metric pattern:
shame," he cries, "let go, and let me go;
day's delight is past, my horse is gone,
'tis your fault I am bereft him so:
pray you hence, and leave me here alone;
all my mind, my thought, my busy care,
how to get my palfrey from the mare."
only desire is to hunt, to chase a boar, and he begs release. He promises
a kiss if she allows him to go his way. When they embrace, “face grows
to face." When he draws backward, she presses in. He yields for a time,
like wax, as she makes impressions. But by and by, as day succumbs to evening,
he resists again and she no longer restrains him, saying:
boy," she says, "this night I'll waste in sorrow,
my sick heart commands mine eyes to watch.
me, Love's master, shall we meet to-morrow?
shall we? shall we? wilt thou make the match?'
tells her, no; to-morrow he intends
hunt the boar with certain of his friends."
leaves, disappearing into the darkness.
the morning, the hunt is on. Hounds bark and bay. Attracted by the din,
Venus spies the boar “Whose frothy mouth [is] bepainted all with red, /
Like milk and blood being mingled both together." The dogs run about in
a frenzy, bleeding. And Adonis? Where is Adonis? She fears the worst. When
a “merry horn" sounds, her heart quickens with hope and
falcon to the lure, away she flies;
grass stoops not, she treads on it so light;
in her haste unfortunately spies
foul boar's conquest on her fair delight;
seen, her eyes, as murder'd with the view,
stars ashamed of day, themselves withdrew;
has been gored. He is dead. Venus is devastated. She says:
poor world, what treasure hast thou lost!
face remains alive that's worth the viewing?
tongue is music now? what canst thou boast
things long since, or any thing ensuing?
flowers are sweet, their colours fresh and trim;
true-sweet beauty lived and died with him."
his blood, she causes a purple flower to grow. Then, tired and careworn,
she hies away in her chariot, drawn by silver doves, “to immure herself
and not be seen."
climax occurs when Venus discovers the body of Adonis, who has been gored
to death by the board. .
he wrote the poem, Shakespeare was attempting to establish his reputation
as a writer of merit. Consequently, he exhibited considerable technical
skill in figures of speech describing the passion of Venus, the allure
of the countryside, and the grisly aftermath of the boar's encounter with
Adonis and the hunting dogs.
many stanzas, Shakespeare charged his words with chaste and innocent denotations
and sensual and suggestive connotations. Some modern interpreters of the
poem read much into these words while speculating on Shakespeare's own
are examples of figures of speech in the poem.
this she seizeth
on his sweating
palm (line 25)
shame (line 49)
added to a river
that is rank
obey'd (line 111)
she entreats, and prettily entreats,
to a pretty ear she tunes her tale;
is he sullen, still
he lours and frets, (line 73-75)
queen of love, in thine own law forlorn,
love a cheek that smiles at thee in scorn! (lines 251-252)
of love fails at love.
sun that shines from heaven shines but warm,
lo! I lie between that sun and thee:
heat I have from thence doth little harm,
eye darts forth the fire that burneth me;
were I not immortal, life were done
this heavenly and earthly sun. (lines 193-198)
of Adonis's eye to an "earthly sun"
be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;
where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale (lines 231-232)
of Venus to a park and Adonis to a deer
gently now she takes him by the hand,
lily prison'd in a gaol of snow (lines 361-362)
of Adonis to a lily Comparison
of Venus to a jail (gaol)
Titan, tired in the mid-day heat
burning eye did hotly overlook them
of Titan, a Greek god also known as Helios, to the sun Comparison
of the sun to an eye
I have heard it is a life in death,
laughs and weeps, and all but with a breath. (lines 413-414)
death; laughing is weeping.)
so himself himself forsook,
died to kiss his shadow in the brook.
a mythological personage who fell in love with his own image, forsakes
the sun with purple-colour'd face
ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn (lines 1-2)
of the sun and the morning to persons
that made thee, with herself at strife,
that the world hath ending with thy life. (lines 11-12)
of nature to a person
red and hot as coals of glowing fire (line 35)
of Venus's complexion to glowing coals
this promise did he raise his chin
a dive-dapper peering through a wave (85-86)
of Adonis to a bird called a dive-dapper, also known as a dabchick and
her tears began to turn their tide,
prisoned in her eye like pearls in glass. (lines 979-980)
of tears to pearls
and Allusions From the Poem
chat: Unproductive, useless.
Clump of foliage; thicket.
Creature filled with fear or intimidation.
Tale bearer; gossip.
Calls by name; addresses.
Elysium: Gain paradise.
God of love. He was the son of Venus.
Movement in which a horse raises its forelegs and then springs forward.
The hind legs rise while the forelegs fall.
Diana, goddess of the hunt.
Bird also known as a dabchick or grebe.
Girds—that is, surrounds, circles.
Tuft of hair above and behind the hoof of a horse.
mourner: Yelping or crying dog with floppy skin on the jowls.
Very hard stone.
such lamps: Four eyes.
Hard to control; disobedient.
attorney: tongue. The tongue speaks for the heart.
Worn-out horse; worthless horse.
Open field; glade
Drawing, painting, sketching.
Scowl, grimace, frown.
Prize, recompense, reward.
voice: Allusion to the Sirens,sea nymphs in Homer's Odyssey.
They sang a song so alluring that it attracted to their shore all passing
sailors who heard it—and then they sat, transfixed by the song, until they
doe: Doe that produces milk.
In Greek mythology, handsome young man who fell in love with his own image
reflected in a pool
fisher but the ungrown fry forbears: No fisherman keeps ungrown (small)
fish. He throws them back.
Gentle saddle horse.
Ancient city in Cyprus.
the maw: Deny or deprive the stomach.
hare: Weak-sighted hare.
Unhappy, not contented.
Upward projection on the front part of a saddle; pommel.
with much ado the cold fault: Singled out or found the lost scent.
Still, used to vaporize, distill.
Greek mythology, King of Sipylus, Lydia. He was a favorite of the gods
until he attempted to deceive them. For his offense, they condemned him
to eternal punishment in Hades. There, Tantalus thirsted for water that
always receded when he tried to drink it and desired fruit on a tree branch
that was always out of reach.
Another name for Helios, a sun god.
Tusks of a boar.
Betwixt, meaning between.
Sky; heavenly vault.
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