As well as plays and sonnets, Shakespeare also wrote poems. In fact, Shakespeare's first published work was a narrative poem called
Venus and Adonis. This was
published in 1593 and was reprinted several times due to its popularity. The poem was dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who is thought to have been
The poem, set in ancient Greece, tells the story of Venus, the goddess of love, and a handsome mortal, Adonis.
Passionately in love with him, Venus tries to seduce him, but he is more
interested in hunting than in her. Venus has a vision, in which she sees him killed by a boar, and warns him, but he hunts regardless and
is duly killed. Venus is devasted and prophesises that love will forever after bring sorrow and strife.
In 1594 Shakespeare published a second narrative poem, also dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, called
The Rape of Lucrece. This poem tells the tragic tale of how Lucrece, an ancient Roman woman, is raped by a soldier in her husband's
absence. After telling her
husband, and giving the name of the rapist, she kills herself with a dagger. Although this poem wasn't as popular as Venus and Adonis it was also republished several times.
Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece are the only two major poems written by Shakespeare.
Read Shakespeare's narrative poems:
VENUS & ADONIS
THE RAPE OF LUCRECE
Shakespeare's other poems, all minor works, are:
The Passionate Pilgrim (1598)
The Phoenix and the Turtle (1601)
A Lover's Complaint (1609)