Featuring acclaimed cast-members with transatlantic credentials, these two narrative poems demonstrate Shakespeare’s mastery of the tragic and comedic. Venus and Adonis follows the goddess of love as she attempts to seduce Adonis, more interested in hunting than Venus’ advances. Featuring racy double-entendres, the poem is famous for its sexually suggestive witticisms. The Rape of Lucrece follows the sexual mistreatment of Lucrece - wife of a retainer to the Roman emperor - at the hands of Sextus Tarquinius, the emperor’s son. These poems portray two very different heroines, one forceful and confident, the other a victim of tragic violence. Actress Clare Corbett (MI-5, Doctor Who) shines as the nymphish Venus, while Eve Best (The Kings Speech, Nurse Jackie) is honest and uncompromising as the ill-fated Lucrece.
These two great poems date from Shakespeare’s early years and are full of passion and invention. In Venus and Adonis, the goddess of love pleads with the beautiful boy to submit to her advances and become her love - but he only wants to hunt boar. In the more serious Rape of Lucrece, Shakespeare draws on the Roman tale of the Emperor Tarquin’s desire for Lucrece and its tragic consequencies. These poems give prominent parts to the two heroines, and Clare Corbett and Eve Best shine.
Public Domain (P)2006 Naxos AudioBooks
Two early poems of Shakespeare, based on love and lust from classical mythology.
The first is a stillborn May-December romance where the goddess Venus tries to seduce, then protect, a young boy she loves, failing at both. The goddess of love here comes across as a desperate cougar, oddly lacking in power, not so surprisingly lacking in sense. I'm not sure how I would have felt about the goddess if I had merely read her story. Instead I listened to Claire Corbett read her, and she gave her such heart that I could forgive her folly and tyranny and mourn her loss.
The second work was even darker, with Shakespeare probing the psyches of a rapist and his victim. The greatest dramatic psychologist had early shown an interest in extreme psychopathology with Richard III, but I found the power and depth that he showed here almost worthy of the tragedies he would write a decade later. Eve Best, a star on the London and Broadway stage, nearly brought tears to my eyes as the wronged heroine examined her options and decided on suicide.
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