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Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis, published in 1593, is the first of two narrative poems Shakespeare wrote during the two years the plague closed theaters in London. His source for this work was Ovid's Metamorphosis. It is Shakespeare's first published work and, due to its erotic, comic and lyrical nature, it is among his most popular works published during his lifetime and immediately after.

The Rape of Lucrece

The Rape of Lucrece, published in 1594, draws on both Ovid and Livy for its sources. It is longer and more serious in tone than Venus and Adonis. These two poems established Shakespeare's poetic credentials. During these years, poets were considered serious literary figures while playwrights were considered, if not hacks, no better than popular entertainers.

The Phoenix and Turtle

The Phoenix and Turtle, published in 1601 as a supplement to Robert Chester's Love's Martyr, is short and obscure. One scholars regard this poem as a forerunner to William Blake's mystical poetry.

The Sonnets

The sonnets were written to over a number of years.