By the time Shakespeare created his poems in the literature of the English Renaissance, a significant epic tradition has already taken shape. Both in prose and in verse, a number of outstanding works were created, which had a significant fruitful influence on Shakespeare. Among them, we should first of all note the pastoral novel of Philip Sydney (1554-1586) "Arcadia", the allegorical poem of Edmund Spencer (1552-1599) "The Queen of the Fae", created on the material of English knightly traditions, as well as a poem on the ancient plot "Hero and Leander "by Christopher Marlowe. Under the pen of these writers, the genre of the poem acquired a relatively stable artistic form, which later was also accepted by Shakespeare; however, it would be incorrect to consider Shakespeare's poems as imitative works; having creatively mastered the achievements of his predecessors, Shakespeare raised the epic poem to a new, higher level.
Following the tradition of the Renaissance, Shakespeare used in. as a plot of "Venus and Adonis" Ancient Greek myth, processed in the tenth book "Metamorphosis" by Ovid. This plot is very simple, but, despite the fact that there is little action in it, it will penetrate with real drama. The goddess of love Venus falls in love with the beautiful youth Adonis, but cannot achieve a reciprocal feeling from him; Adonis prefers courageous amusements to amorous pleasures and dies on hunting from the hitting of a wild boar; after death, Adonis, mourned by Venus, turns into a beautiful flower, and the mournful goddess conceals it on her breast. Shakespeare unfolds this touching legend in a wide epic picture; the poem has almost 1200 poems.
The basis of the conflict of the poem is the clash of two ethical principles, the carriers of which are Venus and Adonis. The Goddess is a passionate advocate of the principle of free love. She openly admits to Adonis in the passion she possesses, and tries with all her might to awaken a reciprocal feeling in the young man. In her passion, she sees nothing vicious; it seeks not only physical proximity, but also a complete spiritual merger with its beloved; she, without hesitation, is ready to sacrifice everything, even life, for the sake of Adonis's happiness. Love in the understanding of Venus is a great creative power, enriching man and making him immortal in posterity, and abstinence from love, on the contrary, a manifestation of selfishness; she sees her happiness not only in her personal desire for pleasure, but also in giving happiness to her beloved person. Venus is in the poem ardent champion of the moral standards of the Renaissance, who opposed medieval asceticism the pursuit of happiness is not in the hereafter, but here on earth.
Shakespeare portrayed a woman in love in the form of an immortal ancient goddess; this allowed the poet to boldly and openly show a powerful flash of passion in the soul of the heroine. But Venus in the poem is perceived by the reader as a real, earthly woman, who loves with great power to her beloved, just as she draws Juliet to Romeo or the heroine of Winter Fairy Tale by Perdita to Florizel.
Adonis, avoiding the caresses of Venus, acts as a carrier, opposite moral foundations. In a conversation with the goddess, he twice motivates his coldness in different ways. The first time he explains his behavior by the fact that he is not yet mature enough for love; already in this explanation slips of naive egoism, which is so alien to Venus, are slipping: Adonis repents that, having tasted love too soon, he will wither, as if the kidney has been uncovered, will wither and not blossom. The second explanation is even more severe: Adonis claims that true love "flew to heaven since the sweat of lust snatched her name on the ground." He sees in the passion of Venus is only the carnal beginning; and the reference to the fact that there cannot be true love on earth can unite the views of Adonis with the dogmas of the Christian religion.
Observing the argument of the heroes of the poem, the reader feels all the time that Shakespeare's sympathies are entirely on the side of passionate and direct Venus. The finale of the poem reveals with even greater conviction the correctness of its "oral positions. The profound sincere grief of the goddess about the lost lover clearly demonstrates the injustice of reproaches in the depravity that Adonis throws at her. Therefore, the tragic denouement of the poem has a sad but enlightened connotation, convincing the reader that a real deep feeling exists on earth.
In this poem, Shakespeare paid a considerable tribute to the conventions that gravitated over the epic genres of his time. The language of the poem sometimes becomes exquisitely lofty, imaginative means are sometimes deliberately complicated; on the monologues of actors often rests a stamp of rhetoric. Tribute to conventions is the very choice of the ancient plot. However, the aesthetic virtues of the poem break through all these stratifications.
A whole series of features of the poem carries the reader from conventional Greece to modern Shakespeare England. Brilliant descriptions of the nature, forests and glades on which the action takes place, the image of Adonis by a young hunter racing for game on a hot horse decorated with a rich cape, finally, a wonderful scene of dog hunting for wild boar - a favorite entertainment for contemporary Shakespeare noble English youth - gives the poem national English color, which deepens the realistic side of the exciting story of the love of a beautiful woman to a haughty youth.
The indisputable conquest of Shakespeare the realist in the poem is the poet's deep penetration into the complex spiritual life of his heroes. This feature of the Shakespearean method was manifested primarily in the characterization of Venus, which takes place in the poem a difficult path from anticipation of happiness to disappointment, and then through fear for the fate of the beloved and outrage against the injustice of Death - to quiet but deep sorrow alone. Despite the straightforwardness of the plot's development, Shakespeare managed to show the subtlest nuances of the heroine's experiences. Thus, he finds a very expressive touch in order to emphasize the power of Venus' passion: after Adonis first addresses her with a rough rebuke, Venus not only does not offend, but, on the contrary, is delighted, for she first hears the enchanting voice of her beloved and is convinced that he is not completely unfeeling.