telling of female desire, such as we find in William Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis'
Thomas Nashe's 'A Choice of Valentines'
and John Donne's 'Sappho to Philaenis'.Shakespeare's 1593 poem,
'Venus and Adonis',
diverges from the original Ovidianmyth, excluding the sexual consummation of the earlier tale. The text's polarisation of thatwhich is chaste and vulturous is one which allows the constitution of Venus as a depravedand sexually volatile character, whilst the pre-pubescent Adonis embodies the pure anduntainted. By opposing the protagonists thus, Shakespeare allows for the formulation of asexually implicit dichotomy which entwines the female and the predatory whilst alternativelyfusing the male and the innocent. Venus' desire for Adonis is therefore subject to an image of degeneracy when met with the youth's lack of reciprocation, by virtue of the linguisticconnotations which attend to their interaction. For example, unremitting appeals to thecolours red and white obviate a poetic association with virginity and promiscuity as in thelines, “She red as hot coals of glowing fire, / He red for shame but frosty in desire.” (35-6) Assuch, any deviation from that which signifies Venus' desire as illicitly masculine is incoherentwith the hunting theme of the poem, which simultaneously envisions Adonis as the feminizedobject of prey. This reversing of traditional roles is, as we will see, portrayed as monstrous.The portions of narrative which verbalise Venus' speech are interjected with anabsence of the narrator’s empathy, escalating the consideration of her unreciprocated sexual persistence as abnormal. There is a disdain for her narrative which is supported by the notionof female sexual hysteria, thus equating female desire with uncontrollability. As such, thesexual confidence of the female is attuned to a womanly power and desire which is inevitablycircumcised by an inability to separate itself from monstrosity in the male discourse. Thismay be seen in the animalistic imagery of the poem being assigned to that which isrepresentative of the female blazon, and whose relation to the character may even beconstituted by absence or negation in self descriptive flattery. Feeding into the psychological