The Art of Speaking Persuasively in Venus and Adonis


TheArt of Speaking Persuasively in Venus and Adonis

TheArt of Speaking Persuasively in Venus and Adonis

Theart of speaking persuasively entails using different sensual tactics,mingling imagination with reality, and also some deception when it isnecessary (Belsey,1995). Venus’ opening words show the boundlesslevel to which one can get while trying to persuade a lover. The artof persuasion thrives on rhetoric. The goddess of love in the poemdepicts the art of persuasion as an act in search for finiteenjoyment even when circumstances are clearly infinite. Venus usesthe art of persuasion to express her rhetoric of seduction to Adonisis a tactic to show the magnitude of her obsession with him. Venusimagines herself and Adonis enjoying their intimacy to eternitythrough words that possibly aim to persuade Adonis to her trap andmanipulation. Some of the rhetoric lies in the words she chooses. Thewords are: “doves,” “roses,” and “flower.” Venus usesthese words to flatter Adonis and to depict beauty as exceptional toher (Shakespeare, 1931). Many scholars have faulted Venus’ choiceof words considering that her audience is inexperienced. Furthermore,her tactics of persuasion are quite transient and vulnerable.However, they all points out to the vitality of rhetoric in the artof persuasion. Adonis is too young and reluctant to be in love withfor Venus. However, Venus is deliberately or tactfully oblivious ofthese Adonis’ young age and reluctance, depicting persuasion as anart that goes at odds with reason.

Thepoem also depicts that the art of persuasion should consider theaudience. The words the speaker chooses to use should resonate withthe circumstances of the audience. This explains why Venus was onlyable to express her love to Adonis in her imagination, but failed todo so physically. For instance, lines 19-24, in which Venus says, “athousand honey secrets shalt thou know/I’ll smother thee withkisses,” shows that Venus does not understand her audience. Thesewords do not resonate with Adonis. In fact, they repel rather thanattract Adonis towards her. Adonis recognizes that Venus’ rhetoricis only meant to flatter and fulfill her emotional desires. In theend, she fails to persuade Adonis with words and she would not,therefore, get a physical chance to do the same.

Thepoem also depicts persuasion as an art that needs the allusion toconventional tradition so that the target audience sees the speakeras realistic. In the 16thcentury, it was conventional for men to describe the physical beautyof women using farfetched hyperbole(Kolin, 2013).Venus had to act in an assertive, male posture, so that Adonis cansee this gesture as conventional and relevant to Elizabethantraditions. Female beauty was celebrated through exaggerated imagesof whiteness and redness in the same way Venus gives outpouringcompliments to Adonis. Another of aspect of conventionalism in theart of persuasion that Venus depicts is the use of objects. Theobjects in the poem are the gifts that male lovers gave to women inan attempt to be affectionate. Venus offers a gift to Adonis so thatshe can get him closer to her. Although her decision to offer a giftwas typically a reversed gender role in her tradition, it emphasizesthat persuasion can thrive through tactics of conventionalism so thatthe audience in touch with what the speaker says and does.

Persuasionrequires the speaker o use symbolism, imager, and metaphors. AlthoughVenus failed to persuade Adonis, the activities that go on betweenthem throughout the poem show that she has persuasion skills(Duncan-Jones, 2003).Venus interplays different modes of mimesis that create a compellingillusion of immediacy to the reader. Perhaps, this sense of immediacyis jeopardized her pursuit of love from Adonis. In contemporaryterms, trying to persuade a prospective lover very fast the way Venusdoes in the poem reveals one’s lustful intentions rather than thecommitment to affection. The aspect of immediacy is depicted in theway Venus describes an explicitly imaginary horse. Adonis’ horsethat Venus points at is a product of nature. The direct allusion tonature creates visual immediacy through the extraordinary picture ofa horse that exists only as an effect of language(Hatto, 1946).Whether the speaker creates mental picture in the mind of theaudience in a negative or positive manner, it is integral in the artof persuasion. Towards the start of the poem, Venus persuades tospeak with her and kiss her. When he turns down her request, Venuslikens him to some types of visual art that employs the typicaldescription of Elizabethan literature. The lines below illustratethis fact:

“Fie,lifeless picture, old, and senseless stone,

Well-paintedidol, image dull, and dead,

Statuecontenting but the eye alone,

Thinglike a man, but no woman bred:

Thouart no man, though of a man’s complexion,

Formen will kiss even by their own direction.”(211-6)

Finally,speaking persuasively requires a unique sense of oratory. It takesthe eloquence of a gifted orator to persuade the audience (Asals,1973). Venus accounts for the greater part of the audience’sfascination about a persuading orator. Of the 199 stanzas in thepoem, 89 depict the oratory of Venus. The reader only wonders why thecharm, the rhetoric, and the oratory fail to seduce Adonis, the younghunter.


Asals,H. (1973). Venus and Adonis: The Education of a Goddess. Studiesin English Literature, 1500-1900,31-51.

Belsey,C. (1995). Love as Trompe-l`oeil: Taxonomies of Desire in Venus andAdonis. Shakespearequarterly,257-276.

Duncan-Jones,K. (2003). Playing Fields or Killing Fields: Shakespeare`s Poems andSonnets. ShakespeareQuarterly,54(2),127-141.

Hatto,A. T. (1946). &quot Venus and Adonis&quot: And the Boar. TheModern Language Review,353-361.

Kolin,P. C. (2013). Venusand Adonis: critical essays.Routledge.

Shakespeare,W. (1931). Venusand Adonis-William Shakespeare.World Best Original Classic.