The Complete Works (Oxford Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare, John Jowett, Gary Taylor

I have been foiled by my own planning. I took short-cuts with creating the index of works on my Will’s World project page, and never double checked the order or even completeness of the list.
Now I have just discovered that there are works missing in between, or they are not in the order of the Oxford edition of the Complete Works that I am using.

Aaaarrggghh! I guess I could co back and correct it all.

Or, … I could correct it as I read on.

Yes, that sounds easier.

As a result of the mix-up, my plans of sitting down to read Edward III this evening have been changed into a discovery of Venus and Adonis. (I’m skipping a re-read of RIII for now – it is excellent, but my memory of it is still relatively fresh.)

Venus and Adonis was new to me. I knew the story as told by Ovid, but I had not read Shakespeare’s version before. It is told entirely in verse, and really is one long, long, long poem.

It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I really enjoyed the rhythm, the tension, and best of all the imagery.

Maybe it was just me, but the last two lines of each verse in the section where Venus pursues Adonis seemed to be written as comic relief of the subject matter, even tho the entire tale is rather tragic (and obviously not adding any modern comment about the topic of assault). It’s not a structure that I had expected.


Here come and sit where never serpent hisses;
And, being sat, I’ll smother thee with kisses, […]


Being so enraged, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse. […]


What I loved best, however, was the use snail imagery to show the damage done a delicate thing like Venus’ beloved:

Or as the snail, whose tender horns being hit
Shrinks backward in his shelly cave with pain,
And there, all smothered up, in shade doth sit,
Long after fearing to creep forth again;
So at his bloody view her eyes are fled
Into the deep dark cabins of her head,

Where they resign their office and their light
To the disposing of her troubled brain,
Who bids them still consort with ugly night,
And never wound the heart with looks again,
Who, like a king perplexed in his throne,
By their suggestion gives a deadly groan,

Whereat each tributary subject quakes,
As when the wind, imprisoned in the ground,
Struggling for passage, earth’s foundation shakes,
Which with cold terror doth men’s minds confound.

Now, that, people, is a fabulous work of love poetry. I hope that the Earl of Southampton, to whom this was dedicated, felt suitably flattered.




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