The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0514  Wednesday, 12 December 2012


From:        Ian Steere <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         December 12, 2012 8:49:31 AM EST

Subject:     The Venus & Adonis Dedication 


In a recent biography, Bill Bryson writes: “William Shakespeare produced a narrative poem called Venus and Adonis with a dedication so florid and unctuous that it can raise a sympathetic cringe even after four hundred years”. He goes on to say: “we know nothing at all about the relationship, if any, that existed between Shakespeare and Southampton”. 


Here, Bryson was faithfully (if colourfully) reflecting current orthodoxy.


We now know that these assessments are, in all probability, badly incomplete or plain wrong. Evidence, in the form of the Dedication, points to a highly intimate relationship between poet and an aristocratic, effeminate young Narcissus. Its messages suggest that the poet—originally favoured by the aristocrat—was displaced. Moreover, they demonstrate, yet again, his wit. They give us an insight into his character. He was prepared to flatter and grovel with the best when it suited him—but he was no doormat. He balanced charm with calculated reprisal and boldness. He was able to recover (at least in part) his standing with the young lord (as confirmed by the Lucrece dedication). 


If the revelations provoke no further testing in this forum, I suggest we may reasonably conclude that members generally: (i) are not interested; or (ii) do not want to countenance them and (unable to contradict) hope that they will just go away; or (iii) give credence (perhaps mildly qualified).


I hope to continue the discovery with the begetting of ensuing inferences. However, I do not want to offend unnecessarily. This will happen if I have no audience in Category (iii) above—or if that audience thinks such elaboration unnecessary. Consequently, it would be helpful to have indications from (or of) the gloom beyond the stagelights. Just an “I’m listening” or a “Push off, you oik” will do. 

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