Shakespeare's Globe

Venus & Adonis [2012]

Written by: William Shakespeare
Directed by: Mark Dornford-May
Adapted by: Mark Dornford-May

Part of the 2012 Globe to Globe Festival.

Performed in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, SeSotho, Setswana, Afrikaans and South African English, by the Isango Ensemble, from Cape Town, South Africa.

The unique and much-loved Isango Ensemble from Cape Town kick proceedings off with a carnival interpretation of this great narrative poem. Isango have already enchanted audiences in the West End with their re-imagining of The Mysteries - Yiimimangaliso and The Magic Flute - Impempe Yomlingo. They will bring the same modern African sensibility, brimming over with song and dance, to Shakespeare's great story of seduction and loss of innocence. 


Venus, the goddess of love, is playing with her son Cupid and is pricked by one of his arrows. While under its erotic influence she sees the beautiful young mortal Adonis and is consumed with uncontrollable desire for him. She ambushes the lad while he is on his way to the hunt, dragging him from his horse and onto a bank where she attempts to seduce him. Adonis’ stallion runs away with a wild mare and he is trapped in the forest with the Goddess of Love but he resists all of her advances, pleading youth and chastity. All day long she tries to persuade him to make love to her; she reasons, cajoles and begs, offering him freely all the delights of her divine body but he remains impervious to her beauty and her arguments.

Eventually, as evening falls, he agrees to a goodnight kiss hoping that this will satisfy her and he can escape to his friends and prepare for the next day’s hunting. Driven to new heights of arousal by the kiss and frantic at the thought that he might be killed while hunting, she attempts to force herself on him. She fails and he leaves.

Venus spends a fretful night, restless with unsatisfied longing and anxiety. In the morning she hears the sounds of the hunt and searches for Adonis. She follows the horns until she finds a boar at bay, his tusks dripping blood, she calms herself and then is confronted by Death, who she berates. Hearing the hunter’s horn again she apologises to Death. At that moment she sees Adonis with his side ripped open. Venus is distraught and foretells that, because of the death of Adonis, all love will now be tainted with jealousy. It will be fickle and false, making fools of people. It will create division, be the cause of wars and from that day forth those that love the most shall enjoy their love the least.

As she watches, his body melts away and a purple flower flecked with white grows where his blood was spilled.

Rent or Own this production on the Globe Player.


  • Music Composition Mandisi Dyantyis with the Company
  • Choreographer Lungelo Ngamlana
  • Musical Directors Mandisi Dyantyis & Pauline Malefane
  • Costume Design Gail Behr


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