Thought Experiment!!! Any Shakespeare fans out there? Up for some R-rated poetry this marvelous morn? It’s for a good cause. Okay, here we go:
Even as the sun with purple-colour’d face
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn,
Rose-cheek’d Adonis hied him to the chase;
Hunting he loved, but love he laugh’d to scorn;
Sick-thoughted Venus makes amain unto him,
And like a bold-faced suitor ‘gins to woo him.
So poor young Adonis is minding his own business and just wants to go hunting. Let’s assume he and Venus had been companions beforehand. Perhaps the plan was for her to simply keep him company on the hunt. But as they venture further into the woods, the vixen Venus decides to do some hunting of her own…
With this she seizeth on his sweating palm,
The precedent of pith and livelihood,
And trembling in her passion, calls it balm,
Earth’s sovereign salve to do a goddess good:
Being so enraged, desire doth lend her force
Courageously to pluck him from his horse.
Uh oh. It’s gettin’ hot in here. She’s a little pushy, isn’t she? But what about him? It appears “[t]his beauteous combat” is both “wilful and unwilling…”
Over one arm the lusty courser’s rein,
Under her other was the tender boy,
Who blush’d and pouted in a dull disdain,
With leaden appetite, unapt to toy;
She red and hot as coals of glowing fire,
He red for shame, but frosty in desire…
Forced to content, but never to obey,
Panting he lies and breatheth in her face;
She feedeth on the steam as on a prey,
And calls it heavenly moisture, air of grace;
Wishing her cheeks were gardens full of flowers,
So they were dew’d with such distilling showers.
Steamy though this encounter may be, the tender hunter has priorities. In spite of Venus’ powers of persuasion, she loses his … attention … when suddenly his horse runs off.
‘For shame,’ he cries, ‘let go, and let me go;
My day’s delight is past, my horse is gone,
And ’tis your fault I am bereft him so:
I pray you hence, and leave me here alone;
For all my mind, my thought, my busy care,
Is how to get my palfrey from the mare…’
He continues: “You hurt my hand with wringing; let us part,” but suffice it to say she does not readily comply. We’ll pause the story there for present purposes.
That’s from Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis, which graced the printed page in 1593. But just for kicks and giggles, let’s pretend it happened last weekend while the two were hunting in the Great State of Michigan. It just so happens that young Adonis, like every Michigander, has a codified right to “use deadly force … with no duty to retreat if either of the following applies”:
(a) [He] honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself… [or]
(b) [He] honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent sexual assault of himself…
Mich. Comp. Laws § 780.972 Sec. 2 (1). Soooooo [drum roll please]… here’s the thought experiment I alluded to earlier. Under a contemporary version of this poem’s facts, is Adonis justified in shooting Venus with his hunting rifle (his other hunting rifle)? And regardless of the unwitnessed realities, would he likely be prosecuted? If Adonis and Venus had switched roles in these events, would the outcome be the same?
6 comments on “Venus and Adonis”
I have some views on this topic that are not so politically correct. You better believe if I’m about to be raped (heaven forbid), I’d consider that to be imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, and I’d govern myself accordingly. However, I also see a huuuuuuuuuuge potential loophole in the statute, depending on the definition of sexual assault (which varies from state to state and is subjectified from person to person). I think the double standard that S.Davis referenced is a real problem here too. Not saying it’s a bad statute. Its intent is certainly good and just. It’s practical application, I fear, could be problematic.
Adonis was a man of the spear, for the spear, and by the spear. Venus was ill-equipped and slow on the uptake, and for that she had to die. Justifiable homicide in the view of the spear’s peers.
As you and I both know, right and wrong bear little resemblance to guilty and not guilty. He might be in the right, but depending on the vigor of prosecution and jury selected could still be found guilty. If the roles were reversed, I think she would argue an armed assailant (based on the size of his spear) and disparity of force and would have a better chance of acquittal.
If I were Adonis I would be concerned that the authorities/jury might have the same double standard they exhibit with regard to adult females having sex with underage males. Did she really physically overwhelm him or was it consensual? Maybe he was asking for it by wearing a loin cloth which was too tight and showed too much of his spear which Homer which was 20 cubits long.
I get the feeling this will be a day of ever-more-daring double entendre… 🙂
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