With the plague closing theatres between 1592-4, Shakespeare published Venus and Adonis on 18 April 1593 as an attractive Quarto to seek an income from book sales and patronage. He dedicated his epyllion (an erotic minor epic) to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton who joined the ill-fated Essex rebellion in 1601.
Venus and Adonis is preoccupied with the theme of hunting. In the narrative, Adonis is out hunting boar and Venus’s desire for Adonis is predatory – an irony Shakespeare enforces with powerful imagery:
“Fondling”, she saith, “Since I have hemmed thee here
Within the circuit of this ivory pale,
I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer:
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain, or in dale;
Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,
Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.
“Within this limit is relief enough,
Sweet bottom grass, and high delightful plain,
Round rising hillocks, brakes obscure and rough,
To shelter thee from tempest, and from rain:
Then be my deer, since I am such a park.
No dog shall rouse thee, though a thousand bark.”
Having pinned Adonis to the ground, Venus attempts to seduce him by referring to her sexualised body as a ‘park’, which is not a public recreational area. In the late sixteenth century, a ‘park’ is -Continue reading>