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Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis. [C]lassical scholars have continued to find epyllion (diminutive of epos, hence versicle or short epic poem) useful.

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Presentation on theme: "Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis. [C]lassical scholars have continued to find epyllion (diminutive of epos, hence versicle or short epic poem) useful."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hero and Leander and Venus and Adonis

2 [C]lassical scholars have continued to find epyllion (diminutive of epos, hence versicle or short epic poem) useful for referring to what is admittedly a heterogeneous group of Hellenistic and Roman poems… C. S. Lewis…seems to have been the first to apply epyllion to the Ovidian poems of Shakespeare, Marlowe and their contemporaries, and the term has acquired some degree of currency in this context… There is also, one might as well admit, the question of convenience: epyllion is simply much handier over an extended stretch of writing than erotic mythological narrative poem or even Ovidian narrative poem. (William Keach, Elizabethan Erotic Narratives: Irony and Pathos in the Ovidian Poetry of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Their Contemporaries (Hassocks: Harvester Press, 1977), p. xvii)

3 Hero and Leander by Christopher Marlowe ( ) based on a poem by Musaeus (c. 5 th century C.E.) Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare ( ) based on a passage from book 10 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (c. 8 C.E.)

4 Changes of shape, new forms, are the theme which my spirit impels me now to recite. (Ovid, Metamorphoses, (c. 8 C.E.), trans. David Raeburn (London: Penguin, 2004); Book 1, l. 1)

5 ‘Her strength exhausted, the girl grew pale; then overcome by the effort of running, she saw Penéüs’ waters before her: “Help me, Father!” she pleaded. “If rivers have power over nature, mar the beauty which made me admired too well, by changing my form!” She had hardly ended her prayer when a heavy numbness came over her body; her soft white bosom was ringed in a layer of bark, her hair was turned into foliage, her arms into branches. The feet that had run so nimbly were sunk into sluggish roots; her head was confined in a treetop; and all that remained was her beauty. Tree though she was, Apollo still loved her. Caressing the trunk with his hand, he could feel the heart still fluttering under the new bark. Seizing the branches, as though they were limbs, in his arms’ embrace, he pressed his lips to the wood; but the wood still shrank from his kisses. Phoebus then said to her: “Since you cannot be mine in wedlock, you must at least be Apollo’s tree. It is you who will always be twined in my hair, on my tuneful lyre and my quiver of arrows. The generals of Rome shall be wreathed with you [...] As I, with my hair that is never cut, am eternally youthful, so you with your evergreen leaves are for glory and praise everlasting.” Apollo the Healer had done. With a wave of her new-formed branches the laurel agreed, and seemed to be nodding her head in the treetop.’ (Metamorphoses, Book 1, ll )

6 At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair, Whom young Apollo courted for her hair, And offered as a dower his burning throne, Where she should sit for men to gaze upon. (Marlowe, Hero and Leander, 5-8)

7 Where Venus in her naked glory strove To please the careless and disdainful eyes Of proud Adonis, that before her lies. (Hero and Leander 12-14) Her kirtle blue, whereon was many a stain, Made with the blood of wretched lovers slain. (15-16) So lovely fair was Hero, Venus’ nun. (45)

8 I could tell ye How smooth his breast was, and how white his belly, And whose immortal fingers did imprint That heavenly path, with many a curious dint, That runs along his back; but my rude pen Can hardly blazon forth the loves of men, Much less of powerful gods. (65-71)

9 Some swore he was a maid in man’s attire, For in his looks were all that men desire: A pleasant smiling cheek, a speaking eye, A brow for love to banquet royally; And such as knew he was a man, would say, ‘Leander, thou art made for amorous play; Why art thou not in love, and loved of all? Though thou be fair, yet be not thine own thrall.’ (83-90) Hero and Leander are both presented as objects, important not for themselves but for their effect on the people around them. Hero's garments are composed of symbolic details chosen more for what they represent than for what they look like; these details, like the description itself, are elaborately and playfully artificial. Leander's naked body is de- scribed with as much detached amusement as Hero's ornate clothes, and neither description penetrates below the surface. Hero and Leander are established as beautiful and desirable, young and inexperienced, and their personalities are developed no further. They set up the limits, or circumstances, inside which the poem's examination of passion is conducted. (Marion Campbell, ‘“Desunt Nonnulla”: The Construction of Marlowe’s Hero and Leander as an Unfinished Poem’, ELH 51 (1984), ; p. 264)

10 These arguments he used, and many more, Wherewith she yielded, that was won before. Hero’s looks yielded, but her words made war: Women are won when they begin to jar. Thus, having swallowed Cupid’s golden hook, The more she strived, the deeper was she strook. Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she still And would be thought to grant against her will. (Marlowe, Hero and Leander, ) Such were the threats she uttered after the way of maidens. But when Leander had heard the goad of her girlish threat, He recognised the tokens of maidens as they surrender; For so it is that whenever women threaten youths Threatening its very self is herald of Love’s converse. […] Speechless, the maiden fixed her gaze upon the ground, Modestly abashed, hiding away her flushing cheek, And with her feet she smoothed the ground’s surface, again And again chastely closing her gown about her shoulders; For these are all harbingers of compliance, and a girl’s Silence, when she is won, is her promise to the couch of love. (Musaeus, Hero and Leander, trans. Cedric Whitman, and )

11 Albeit Leander, rude in love and raw, Long dallying with Hero, nothing saw That might delight him more, yet he suspected Some amorous rites or other were neglected. Therefore unto his body, hers he clung; She, fearing on the rushes to be flung, Strived with redoubled strength; the more she strived, The more a gentle, pleasing heat revived, Which taught him all that elder lovers know. (545-53)

12 And now the same gan so to scorch and glow, As, in plain terms, yet cunningly, he craved it. (Love always makes those eloquent that have it.) She, with a kind of granting, put him by it, And, ever as he thought himself most nigh it, Like to the tree of Tantalus, she fled, And, seeming lavish, saved her maidenhead. (554-60) The syntax […] might lure an unwary reader into wishfully concluding that the “gentle pleasing heat” warms both Leander and Hero. But it is “the same” heat that burns throughout the lines, and since Leander alone is scorched by it, it is reasonable to conclude that Hero is not hot on this occasion. Leander’s new-found heat gives him the confidence to speak “in plaine termes” of what “it” is he wants. (The first syllable of “cunningly” tells us what “it” is.) (John Leonard, ‘Marlowe's Doric Music: Lust and Aggression in Hero and Leander’, English Literary Renaissance 30 (2000), 55-76; p. 64)

13 Love is not full of pity, as men say, But deaf and cruel, where he means to prey. Even as a bird which in our hands we wring Forth plungeth and oft flutters with her wing, She trembling strove; this strife of hers, like that Which made the world, another world begat Of unknown joy. Treason was in her thought, And cunningly to yield herself she sought. Seeming not won, yet won she was, at length. (In such wars women use but half their strength.) (771-80) Critics have been reluctant to face the violence in the bird simile. The Norton Anthology glosses “wring” as “hold firmly” – a sense not found in the OED […] Marlowe writes: “in our hands we wring.” His simile refers to the common sixteenth-century practice of killing domestic fowl by wringing their necks. (Leonard, ‘Doric Music’, p. 70)

14 So Hero’s ruddy cheek Hero betrayed, And her all naked to his sight betrayed, Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure took Than Dis on heaps of gold fixing his look. (807-10)

15 Love is not full of pity, as men say, But deaf and cruel, where he means to prey. (771-72)

16 ‘Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, Well painted idol, image dull and dead, Statue contenting but the eye alone, Thing like a man, but of no woman bred: Thou art no man, though of a man’s complexion, For men will kiss even by their own direction.’ (Venus and Adonis )

17 He looks upon his love, and neighs unto her; She answers him as if she knew his mind. Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her, She puts on outward strangeness, seems unkind, Spurns at his love, and scorns the heat he feels, Beating his kind embracements with her heels. Then, like a melancholy malcontent, He vails his tail that, like a falling plume, Cool shadow to his melting buttock lent. He stamps, and bites the poor flies in his fume. His love, perceiving how he was enraged, Grew kinder, and his fury was assuaged. (307-18)

18 ‘Who sees his true-love in her naked bed, Teaching the sheets a whiter hue than white, But when his glutton eye so full hath fed His other agents aim at like delight? [...] Let me excuse thy courser, gentle boy; And learn of him, I heartily beseech thee, To take advantage on presented joy.’ (Venus and Adonis ) Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure took Than Dis on heaps of gold fixing his look. (Hero and Leander )

19 Now quick desire hath caught the yielding prey, And glutton-like she feeds, yet never filleth. Her lips are conquerors, his lips obey, Paying what ransom the insulter willeth, Whose vulture thought doth pitch the price so high That she will draw his lips’ rich treasure dry. And, having felt the sweetness of the spoil, With blindfold fury she begins to forage. Her face doth reek and smoke, her blood doth boil, And careless lust stirs up a desperate courage, Planting oblivion, beating reason back, Forgetting shame’s pure blush and honour’s wrack. (547-58) In the first stanza, gluttony has replaced fast; the eagle is now a vulture, and the kiss a kind of rape in which eros seems heartless fury rather than pleasure. These stanzas, in fact, use imagery strikingly similar to that describing Tarquin when he is about to rape Lucrece; in both situations, lust becomes a tyranny of force, likened both to the animal world and the battlefield. (Coppélia Kahn, ‘Self and Eros in Venus and Adonis’ (1976), in Venus and Adonis: Critical Essays, ed. Philip C. Kolin (New York: Garland, 1997), pp ; 192)

20 ‘I hate not love, but your device in love’ (789) ‘Call it not love, for love to heaven is fled Since sweating lust on earth usurped his name, Under whose simple semblance he hath fed Upon fresh beauty, blotting it with blame; Which the hot tyrant stains, and soon bereaves, As caterpillars do the tender leaves. Love comforteth, like sunshine after rain, But lust’s effect is tempest after sun. Love’s gentle spring doth always fresh remain; Lust’s winter comes ere summer half be done. Love surfeits not; lust like a glutton dies. Love is all truth, lust full of forgèd lies.’ ( )

21 Neptune was angry that he gave no ear, And in his heart revenging malice bare. He flung at him his mace, but as it went He called it in, for love made him repent. The mace returning back, his own hand hit, As meaning to be venged for darting it. When this fresh bleeding wound Leander viewed, His colour went and came, as if he rued The grief which Neptune felt. In gentle breasts Relenting thoughts, remorse, and pity rests. (Hero and Leander )

22 So Hero’s ruddy cheek Hero betrayed, And her all naked to his sight betrayed, Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure took Than Dis on heaps of gold fixing his look. (Hero and Leander )

23 She bows her head the new-sprung flower to smell, Comparing it to her Adonis’ breath, And says within her bosom it shall dwell, Since he himself is reft from her by death. She crops the stalk, and in the breach appears Green-dropping sap, which she compares to tears. ‘Poor flower,’ quoth she, ‘this was thy father’s guise – Sweet issue of a more sweet-smelling sire – For every little grief to wet his eyes. To grow unto himself was his desire, And so ’tis thine; but know it is as good To wither in my breast as in his blood.’ (Venus and Adonis ) In Ovid, it is Venus who transforms Adonis into a flower, but Shakespeare's Adonis, having the power of the primordial poet, Orpheus, to make the birds and the beasts and the trees move, can effect his own metamorphosis […] The ‘new-sprung’ flower has grown to vigorous strength from an original seed sown in an open space of untilled ground, fed by its own vital body fluid. If it is picked, the self-renewing power which has created it can produce another […] Venus may place the self- created heir of Adonis in her bosom where it will wither, but its vital essence has been distilled. Her sterile rhetoric has been metamorphosed into an organic language that can bring everything into new life. She hies home to Paphos, where she ‘Means to immure herself and not be seen’, taking the flower with her-but leaving Shakespeare's poem behind. (Pauline Kiernan, ‘Death by Rhetorical Trope: Poetry Metamorphosed in Venus and Adonis and the Sonnets’. Review of English Studies 46 (1995), ; pp )

24 [C]oitus only occurs in the form of perverted, parodic variations, as Adonis is nuzzled by the boar and Venus cradles the flower - because the partners are not equals. An oppressive power- relation has to exist: after all, this is a goddess dealing with a mortal. Shakespeare has some fun inverting the traditional power structure - Venus's problem is that she can't actually rape Adonis, as Jove rapes Danai, Neptune Theophane, and Apollo Isse - but in the end the poem shows that a sexual relationship based on coercion is doomed. The inequality is highlighted by the difference in age of the two characters; one function of the allusions to Adonis's mother is to suggest that the sexual dealings of partners of greatly unequal age are bound at some level to replicate the archetypal relationship based on an unequal power-structure, incest between a parent and a child. (Jonathan Bate, ‘Sexual Perversity in Venus and Adonis’, Yearbook of English Studies 23 (1993), 80-92; p. 92. See also his book, Shakespeare and Ovid (1993)) In refusing Venus, Adonis also fulfills early modern expectations that male rationality should rule over uncontrollable female desire […] Adonis’s lack of arousal when Venus tackles him may suggest not that he lacks virility but that he possesses a control over his physical desires that women were purported to lack according to humoral theories of gendered sexual desire. Adonis may be highly exceptional in this regard, but his behavior still fits into a common construction of masculine, not feminine, sexuality. (Chantelle Thauvette, ‘Defining early modern pornography: the case of Venus and Adonis’, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 12 (2012), 26-48; p. 42)


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