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Shakespeare & Beyond

Venus and Adonis: The classical myth that inspired Shakespeare's epic poem and John Blow's 17th-century opera

Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis

What many consider to be the earliest known English opera shares its mythological subject with Shakespeare’s most popular published work during his lifetime: the epic poem Venus and Adonis. Here we see great artists from different centuries using different art forms to make new creations from the same source material, putting their own mark on it. Shakespeare’s poem dates to 1593, while John Blow’s opera was composed around 1683.

The libretto to this opera has been attributed to an English noblewoman in the court of Charles II, Anne Kingsmill Finch, and an early manuscript of the opera is part of the Folger Shakespeare Library collection. According to scholar Jennifer Keith, the libretto may also have had some input by two other women of letters in the service of the court.


[…] so many myths, the story of Venus and Adonis continues to echo through history and art. Read about John Blow’s opera on this blog or listen to Charles Coleman’s musical piece Venus lamenting her lost Adonis, which […]

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