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Alternative Transformations in “Venus and Adonis”

By Tate Frederick, VI Form

Alternative Transformations in Venus and Adonis

The transformations within the story of Venus and Adonis represent multiple characters straying from traditional stereotypes.  While traditional Ovidian transformations are included in the story, such as Adonis becoming a flower and Atalanta and Hippomenes morphing into lions, the most significant transformations occur when the characters deviate from the way their gender is typically perceived in Roman culture.  Inclusion of these interesting character transformations also offers a new perspective on the division and dynamic of power within this story.  These special kinds of transformations occur when Venus becomes a hunter and when Atalanta takes control of her own fate.

It is Adonis’ status as a hunter that convinces Venus to transform into a different version of herself so that she can spend as much time with him as possible; this metamorphosis turns Venus into a fierce hunter, which is antithetical to the Venus that the audience would expect.  Since Venus is captivated by him, and more specifically his beauty, she knows she will have to sacrifice some of the practices and qualities she has grown accustomed to.  For example, Venus is used to staying in the shade to avoid tan skin, which is considered less beautiful, as well as increasing and cultivating her own beauty, or maintaining a plumper figure, which is also considered the ideal image: “adsuetaque semper in umbra indulgere sibi formamque augere colendo” (10.534-5).  Following her infatuation with Adonis caused by Cupid’s arrow, Venus is willing to change the location of her usual haunts and her appearance despite her previous values, such as traditional beauty, in order to best suit herself to be a hunter.  This new persona best equips her to spend her days with Adonis.  She prepares to have tanned skin and a slimmer, more athletic figure.