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date: 16 October 2021

p. 172. Venus and Adonislocked

p. 172. Venus and Adonislocked

  • Jonathan F. S. Post


Venus and Adonis—Shakespeare’s best-selling first venture into print, a poem soon to become one of the era’s most popular works—is a young person’s poem, written by a 29-year-old emerging poet, about the topsy-turvy, innocent yet dangerous impulses of sexual desire. Although often comical, Venus’s hot pursuit of the young Adonis ends in his being gored by a boar. The near rhyme is almost a pun, as proximate and painfully inevitable as the familiar equation in the period between sex and death. ‘Venus and Adonis’ explains how this Ovidian erotic poem helped to launch Shakespeare’s career as a poet and to elevate him above lowly groundlings and fellow, rival dramatists and poets.

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