Love Vs. Lust In Elizabethan Times

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Topics: Love
Dion Mitchell
Research paper
Love vs. Lust

The most prominent reason for examining Venus and Adonis in its historical context is that conceptions regarding love--and lust--in Elizabethan times were vastly different from those in modern times. As Russ McDonald notes in his Bedford Companion to Shakespeare, marriage frequently had little, if anything, to do with the degree of love shared by the partners in question. Especially among upper class families, who possessed capital and estates that potential brides could give to their suitors as dowries, the agreeability of the financial arrangement and the effect the union would have on the social status of each were frequently the most important matchmaking factors. While ''love'' certainly sprang from such
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Adonis, of course, draws a very fine distinction between the words, concluding several stanzas of comparisons with the twin declarations, ''Love is all truth, lust full of forge` d lies.'' Yet Betsey notes that this distinction is not played out in the rest of the text, with love and lust used interchangeably to describe Venus's emotional state. Betsey states, ''The emergence of a radical distinction between the two--a process inadvertently encouraged, as it turns out, by the voice of Adonis--marks a moment in the cultural history of desire which . . . has proved formative for our own cultural norms and values.'' That is, in modern times, love and lust largely have precisely the connotations that Adonis assigns them. Betsey draws on a wide variety of sources to show that at the time of the publication of Venus and Adonis, lust quite often had perfectly positive connotations, as associated and coupled with virtuous ''true love.'' The years afterward witnessed a gradual shift, such that ''by the mid-seventeenth century the term had acquired a primarily sexual and strongly pejorative

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