Study Guide

Venus and Adonis Context

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The myth of "Venus and Adonis" is one of those stories that has been around, in one form or another, since the most ancient times. The tale has its roots in the myths of humanity's earliest civilizations – ones that came even before Greece and Rome had their heydays. Check our section on "Similar Myths Across Cultures" for more on the myth's roots in these ancient cultures.

Many later Europeans knew the story mainly through the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses (the myth appears in Book 10). Ovid's version inspired many other famous artists over the years. Shakespeare's first major published poem was called Venus and Adonis. The erotic poem was a smash hit and helped put Shakespeare on the map as a poet. (Hey, sex sells.)

Shakespeare isn't the only artist to put his own spin on the tale. It was turned into operas by John Blow, Henri Desmarets, Hans Verner Henz, and others. The tragic couple has also been the subject of tons of visual artists. Peter Paul Reubens, Jose be Ribera, and Cornelius van Haarlem, are only a few of the artists to put their own stamp on the subject. Head over to "Photos" to see some famous paintings inspired by the famous mythological lovers.

There you go – "Venus and Adonis" through the ages, and it just keeps going. We don't know of any modern movies that have come out with the same exact title, but the basic plot is all over the place: Amazingly beautiful girl loves incredibly sexy guy. He dies. She's sad. Titanic and tons of other movies all riff on the same basic idea. Love and tragic death? People just can't get enough.

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