Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Venus and Adonis - Deadly Kisses

'But this foul, grim, and urchin-snouted boar,
Whose downward eye still looketh for a grave,
Ne'er saw the beauteous livery that he wore;
Witness the entertainment that he gave:
If he did see his face, why then I know
He thought to kiss him, and hath kill'd him so.

'Tis true, 'tis true; thus was Adonis slain:
He ran upon the boar with his sharp spear,
Who did not whet his teeth at him again,
But by a kiss thought to persuade him there;
And nuzzling in his flank, the loving swine
Sheathed unaware the tusk in his soft groin.

'Had I been tooth'd like him, I must confess,
With kissing him I should have kill'd him first;
But he is dead, and never did he bless
My youth with his; the more am I accurst.'
With this, she falleth in the place she stood,
And stains her face with his congealed blood.
(Venus and Adonis, 1127-1144)

In a previous post about this poem, I touched on some of the elements of the "love" story here that give us pause - 
 Adonis' youth, Venus' forcing of a relationship upon him against his will. But for me, the number one most disturbing element of the whole poem, the crowning conclusion to all the disfunction that has come previously, lies in Venus' totally horrible excuse for the actions of the boar (who - SPOILER ALERT - has just killed Adonis by basically goring his entrails out).

Yes, we all read the above quotations right - Venus doesn't blame the boar! From her perspective, the boar is just like her - he was only trying to give Adonis a nice little kiss because he loved him. Too bad it just so happened that he accidently STABBED HIM TO DEATH! Whoops! Venus' violence and excusing of violence as equaling love continues when, for her own enjoyment, she plucks the flower that is the only living remnant of Adonis' existence, thus causing the flower's death. Nice going! There's so much going on here, I could write a book just about all the obvious symbolism - but I think I'm safe to say that in this conclusion of the poem, we see a lot of questioning and ambivalence about the roles and results of love and lust. Is love a beautiful goddess - or a MURDERER? Or both...?

By the way, remember what the symbol for Richard III was?

The "foul, grim, and urchin-snouted boar"

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