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Shakespeare in Theory and Practice$
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Catherine Belsey

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748633012

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633012.001.0001

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Love as Trompe-l'oeil: Taxonomies of Desire in Venus and Adonis

Love as Trompe-l'oeil: Taxonomies of Desire in Venus and Adonis

(p.34) Chapter 3 Love as Trompe-l'oeil: Taxonomies of Desire in Venus and Adonis
Shakespeare in Theory and Practice

Belsey Catherine

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter takes issue with the moralising interpretation of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis that blames an ageing Venus for improper advances to a boy. The poem marks a moment when the role of love was subject to radical historical reassessment. A literary trompe-l'oeil, a text of and about desire, Venus and Adonis promises a definitive account of love, but at the same time it withholds the finality that such a promise might lead the readers to expect. The goddess of love unexpectedly appears as a desiring subject, herself at the mercy of an intractable passion. The shifting meaning of lust depends on the emergent difference between lust and love. The poem sustains the desire of the reader-critic to the degree that it refuses to yield the gratification of a final meaning, a commitment to moral piety concealed behind the folds of its heterogeneous textuality.

Keywords:   Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare, trompe-l'oeil, love, desire, lust

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