William Shakespeare is one of the most popular poets in the world of literature. He was and still one of the most celebrated poet in the world. He wrote many poems including; Venus and Adonis, the rape of lucre, the sonnets, A lovers complaint among others. The main poem of much emphasis in this essay is Venus and Adonis. The poem is considered as one of Shakespeare's works that received less criticism from his audience. This was because it is believed that it was his first poem to be published. It was published out of the theaters since the playhouses were closed by then due to the plague that occurred in England. It was also widely accepted by his audience since it portrayed the actual happenings that in the lives of people by then. The poem was widely accepted by people because it came with great and important knowledge and it was also written during the times of political tension and instability in England. The poem's popularity can also be attributed to continued revisions, alterations and clarification by different scholars like; Syre Greenfield (1998), Catherine Belsey (1995), David N. Beauregard (1975), Jonathan Bate (1993) and many others. The poem was also reprinted ten times in a span of twenty five years. This can also be considered as one of the major reasons of its popularity.
The poem Venus and Adonis was one of the greatest works done by William Shakespeare during his work days. The poem talks about passionate love between two people; Venus and Adonis. Venus sexual advances and desires are snubbed by Adonis and the latters decision to continue with boar hunting instead of playing along with her results to his death. Venus as a character in the poem attracts few criticism from various people who considers her to be full of lust and antagonistic. Some of the people who criticized Venus as a character include; Heather Asals (1973), James H. Lake (1974) and A.D Cousins (2000). Venus is therefore the most criticized character in the poem. Majority of Shakespeare's audience believed that the poem addressed the actual happenings people experienced in life and they therefore accept it without any reproach. Adonis on the other hand attracts no criticism from the audience since many considers him to be a victim of love pressure exerted on him by Venus suggestive advances.
The poem through various stanzas and lines exhibits the representations of colors red and white that are personified to human feelings and actions that may cause conflicts and differences. Shakespeare used his poem to touch and spotlight on the political scramble that by then seemed to be on its peak in European countries especially England. There were competitions and preferences among the people on who were fit to rule and who were to be ruled. The preferences of who to rule and who to be ruled relates to the symbolisms of the red and white colors in the poem; Venus and Adonis since it has much attention paid to the concept of color and the differences between the colors. The review of this poem begins right from the initial stanzas.
The first two stanzas of the poem shows the tension strengthened by color symbolism. The aggregation of red and white roses in line ten offers not a least distinguished hint to Shakespeares historical referent as a poet. The two stanzas bring out the hazards that may result from relationships much strengthened by passionate love. Though the poem depicts a romantic relationship instead of familial, the goddess might have opted to safeguard the boy in a familial manner instead of luring him into a suggestive form of protection. The consequent stanzas strengthens the symbolic insinuations of color, bringing out the support and hazards they incite. This is clearly evident in the second last and last lines of the sixth stanza
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire.
The insinuations are also extended to the thirteenth stanza;
Still is he sullen, still lowrs and frets,
Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale.
Being red, she loves him best and being white,
Her best is betterd with more delight.
The lines above shows that the hot red affection and love Venus has for Adonai turns the later icy white. The two show colors red and white confirming the relationship of their behaviors and traits. In her suit, Venus points out the ineffectiveness of opposition. Adonai on the other hand offers a stable opposition but Venus tries not to give up. This difference between Venus and Adonis may be well explained by the fact mentioned earlier that the two exhibit red and white colors that relate to their traits. For example,
To note the fighting conflict of her hue,
How white and red each other did destroy!
But how her cheek was pale, and by and by
It flashd forth fire, as lightning from the sky (11.345-48)
and alsoshe takes him by the hand,
A lily prisond in a jail of snow,
Or ivory in an alabaster band,
So white a friend engirts so white a foe (11.361-64).
We are aware of the consequences of the amorous conflict that exists between the two in the poem: Adonis still has the desire of hunting instead of involving in the passionate play and therefore, decides to follow the ancient sign of bravery, combat and success. The sudden pale with blushing rose exhibited by Venus does not discourage him from doing what he feels is right. He doesn't give up even with the knowledge of the failure of his efforts to create peace. It is worth noting that the death of Adonis blurs the vision of doing great things of desire Venus has: behold two Adons dead! (1.1070). Venus then begins to have revelations of grief and pain to come in future following the demise Adonis: sorrow on love (1.1136). It is clear that Venus is not comfortable with the demise of Adonis and thats why she starts to have negative revelations that come as a result of the regrets she has. Life seems to be meaningless to her following the demise of somebody she loves so much.
The revelations continues to gain support and roots in the subsequent stanzas and lines of the poem. For example,
It shall be cause of war and dire events,
And set dissension twixt the son and sire,
Subject and servile to all discontents,
As dry combustions matter is to fire.
Sith in his prime, Death doth my love destroy,
They that love best, their loves shall not enjoy (1159-64)"
The lines clearly brings out impressions of sorrows and grief that may result from a passionate love people share. It is clear from the lines above that where love must exist, the joy and happiness expected will be replaced by pain and sorrow. The existence of such kind of love will put families at disappointments, odds, pains, quarrels, imbalances, disagreements and these may generally result to complete destruction of the relationships in a family and the family as a whole. This is a prior description that shows how the tension of colors red and white and the war between roses replaced good relationship and love with chaos, discomforts, continued differences and successive conflict. The difference between colors red and white portrays alterations in how the characters in the poem feel.
The poem comes to an end with Venus vamoosing from the world. His death leads to the end of love that existed between them. By the death of the beloved, the love disappears. Symbolically, when the human personification of colors red and white dies, the war, disagreements, conflict of interests and differences dies and peace comes to existence. The civil war and scramble for leadership in the European nations that Shakespeare addressed in a poetic manner, could only come to an end with non-existence of the involved parties. This means that if the people involved in the scramble for power died then peace and justice could reign in the European nations especially in England. Shakespeare has successfully brought his thoughts and takes on the political unrest and instability in the European nations by personifying the tension between the colors red and white to human ideologies, disagreements and scramble for power. Just as the red and white roses dies and decays, Shakespeare also relates this to human because the latter also dies.
The red and white colors in the poem in the poem brings out differences in feelings of Adonai and Venus on making decisions concerning how they want to lead their lives comfortably without pains, grief and sorrow. The differences just like in human interferes with the good relationship they share. This happens because each one of them has the feeling of doing the right thing but just like color red doesn't resemble color white, they both end up having different feelings despite sharing a romantic and strong love. This is what the poet tries to bring out in real life situation. The people scrambling for power in the European nations may be related in one way or the other but misunderstandings and disparity in ideologies among them may create conflict. Their differences are only brought about by diverse feelings of each and every one of them that do not coincide with each others feelings. The non-existence of these people or their death if they exist can guarantee peace.
It is worth noting that having relationships is not a guarantee of peace and agreements between people. People can have blood ties and other form of relationships but it is not unique for related people and those with shared emotions to have differences or conflict. Shakespeare portrays this by showing the tension between colors red and white since the colors in the poem symbolizes different feelings. Red and white are both colors but with different outlooks. It is therefore true that they are related because they are all colors. The red and white colors in the poem symbolizes different decisions and feelings. This what Shakespeare tends to use in revealing to his audience that familial and romantic relationships cannot guarantee peace and understanding between people. The love between Venus and Adonai ended following her disappearance from the world. The same way Shakespeare meant that the conflict that existed between the people of England that was brought about by scramble for power could stop in many ways including the death of the involved parties. The poem also tend to explain the level of relationships people may have and how they may influence understanding between people involved.
In conclusion, the essay basically talks about the tension that exists between colors red and white as brought out by William Shakespeare. The color symbolism in the poem creates different impressions. It is these impressions that the poet uses to explain the actual things that happen in the lives of people. The tension of the colors red and white as explained above coincides with the political tension and instability the poet targeted. The poet uses personification as a stylistic device to relate the content in the poem to human life. He also uses the loudest colors of red and white to show the intensity and situation of things in the lives of the characters. The symbolisms of the colors red and white creates a conflict of ideas that seem to exist even in real life situation. Shakespeare relates the happenings in his poem to the tension in the European nations.
William Shakespeare. Venus and Adonis. 1953.
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