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Wives and Witches_ Macbeth - University of Warwick

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Hero and LeanderandVenus and Adonis
[C]lassicalscholars have continued to findepyllion(diminutive ofepos, henceversicleorshort 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 applyepyllionto theOvidianpoems 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:epyllionis simply much handier over an extended stretch of writing thanerotic mythological narrative poemor evenOvidiannarrative poem.(WilliamKeach,Elizabethan Erotic Narratives: Irony and Pathos in theOvidianPoetry of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Their Contemporaries(Hassocks: Harvester Press, 1977), p. xvii)
Hero and Leanderby ChristopherMarlowe (1564-1593)basedon a poem byMusaeus(c. 5thcentury C.E.)Venus and Adonisby William Shakespeare (1564-1616)basedon a passage from book 10 of Ovid’sMetamorphoses(c. 8 C.E.)
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)
‘Her strength exhausted, the girl grew pale; then overcome by the effort of running, she sawPenéüs’ 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 withyou [...]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, Book1, ll.543-67)
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)
WhereVenus in hernaked glorystroveTo please the careless and disdainful eyesOf proud Adonis, that before her lies.(Hero and Leander12-14)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)
Icould tell yeHow smooth his breast was, and how white his belly,And whose immortal fingers did imprintThat heavenly path, with many a curious dint,That runs along his back; but my rude penCan hardly blazon forth the loves of men,Much less of powerfulgods.(65-71)
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 isconducted.(Marion Campbell, ‘“DesuntNonnulla”:The Construction ofMarlowe’sHero and Leanderas an UnfinishedPoem’,ELH51 (1984), 241-68; p. 264)
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 shestrook.Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she stillAnd would be thought to grant against her will.(Marlowe,Hero and Leander,329-36)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 youthsThreatening 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, againAnd again chastely closing her gown about her shoulders;For these are all harbingers of compliance, and a girl’sSilence, when she is won, is her promise to the couch of love.(Musaeus,Hero and Leander, trans. Cedric Whitman, 128-32 and 160-65)
Albeit Leander, rude in love and raw,Long dallying with Hero, nothing sawThat might delight him more, yet he suspectedSome 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)
And now the sameganso 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 “inplainetermes” 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 inHero and Leander’,English Literary Renaissance30 (2000), 55-76; p. 64)
Love is not full of pity, as men say,But deaf and cruel, where he means toprey.Even as a bird which in our hands we wringForthplungethand oft flutters with her wing,She trembling strove; this strife of hers, like thatWhich made the world, another world begatOf 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. TheNorton Anthologyglosses “wring” as “hold firmly” – a sense not found in theOED[…] Marlowe writes: “in our hands we wring.” His simile refers to the commonsixteenth-century practiceof killing domestic fowl by wringing theirnecks. (Leonard, ‘Doric Music’, p. 70)
SoHero’s ruddy cheek Hero betrayed,And her all naked to his sight betrayed,Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure tookThan Dis on heaps of gold fixing his look.(807-10)
Loveis not full of pity, as men say,But deaf and cruel, where he means to prey.(771-72)
‘Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone,Well paintedidol,imagedull and dead,Statuecontenting 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 kisseven by their own direction.’(Venus and Adonis211-16)
Helooks upon his love, and neighs unto her;She answers himas ifshe knew his mind.Being proud, as females are, to see him woo her,She puts onoutward strangeness,seemsunkind,Spurns at his love, and scorns the heat he feels,Beating his kindembracementswith 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 wasenraged,Grew kinder, and hisfurywas assuaged.(307-18)
‘Who sees his true-love in her naked bed,Teaching the sheets a whiter hue than white,But when hisglutton eyeso full hath fedHis other agents aim at like delight?[...]Let me excuse thy courser, gentle boy;And learn of him, I heartily beseech thee,Totake advantage on presented joy.’(Venus and Adonis397-405)Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure tookThan Dis on heaps of gold fixing his look.(Hero and Leander809-10)
Now quick desire hath caught the yielding prey,Andglutton-likeshe feeds, yet neverfilleth.Her lips areconquerors, his lips obey,Paying what ransom the insulterwilleth,Whose vulture thought doth pitch the price so highThat she will draw his lips’ richtreasuredry.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 blushand 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 whicherosseems heartless fury rather than pleasure. These stanzas, in fact, use imagery strikingly similar to that describingTarquinwhen he is about to rapeLucrece; in both situations, lust becomes a tyranny of force, likened both to the animal world and the battlefield.(CoppéliaKahn, ‘Self and Eros inVenus and Adonis’ (1976), inVenus and Adonis: Critical Essays, ed. Philip C.Kolin(New York: Garland, 1997), pp. 181-202; 192)
‘I hate not love, but your device in love’(789)‘Call it not love, for love to heaven is fledSince sweating lust on earth usurped his name,Under whose simple semblance he hathfedUpon fresh beauty,blotting it with blame;Which thehot tyrantstains, and soon bereaves,As caterpillars do the tender leaves.Lovecomforteth, like sunshine after rain,But lust’s effect is tempest after sun.Love’sgentlespring doth alwaysfreshremain;Lust’s winter comes ere summer half be done.Lovesurfeits not; lust like a glutton dies.Love isall truth, lust full offorgèdlies.’(793-804)
Neptune was angry that he gave no ear,And in his heart revenging malice bare.He flung at him his mace, but as it wentHe called it in, forlove made him repent.The mace returning back, his own hand hit,As meaning to bevengedfor darting it.When this fresh bleeding wound Leander viewed,His colour went and came, as if he ruedThe grief which Neptune felt. In gentle breastsRelenting thoughts, remorse, and pity rests.(Hero and Leander691-700)
SoHero’s ruddy cheek Hero betrayed,And her all naked to his sight betrayed,Whence his admiring eyes more pleasure tookThan Dis on heaps of gold fixing his look.(Hero and Leander807-10)
Shebows her head the new-sprung flower to smell,Comparing it toher Adonis’ breath,And says within her bosom it shall dwell,Sincehe himself isreftfrom her by death.She crops the stalk, and in the breach appearsGreen-dropping sap, which she compares to tears.‘Poor flower,’quothshe, ‘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 goodTowitherin my breast as in his blood.’(Venus and Adonis1171-82)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 ownmetamorphosis […]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 produceanother […]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. Shehieshome toPaphos, where she‘Meansto immure herself and not beseen’,taking the flower with her-but leaving Shakespeare's poem behind.(Pauline Kiernan, ‘Deathby Rhetorical Trope: Poetry Metamorphosed inVenus and Adonisand theSonnets’.Review of EnglishStudies46 (1995), 475-501; pp.500-01)
[C]oitusonly occurs in the form of perverted, parodic variations, as Adonis is nuzzled by theboarand Venus cradles the flower - because the partners are not equals.Anoppressive 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 rapesDanai, NeptuneTheophane, and ApolloIsse- 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,‘SexualPerversity inVenus andAdonis’,Yearbook of EnglishStudies23 (1993), 80-92; p. 92. See also his book,Shakespeare and Ovid(1993))In refusing Venus, Adonis also fulfills early modern expectationsthat malerationality should rule over uncontrollable femaledesire […] Adonis’slack ofarousal whenVenus tackles him may suggest not that he lacks virility but that hepossesses acontrol over his physical desires that women were purported tolack accordingto humoral theories of gendered sexualdesire. Adonismay behighly exceptionalin this regard, but his behavior still fits into a commonconstruction ofmasculine, not feminine, sexuality.(ChantelleThauvette, ‘Definingearly modern pornography: the case ofVenus andAdonis’,Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies12 (2012), 26-48; p. 42)





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Wives and Witches_ Macbeth - University of Warwick