Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Tessie Prakas

Reader 2

Thomas Koenigs

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© 2018 Maureen R Cowhey


William Shakespeare is arguably the most famous and influential author in modern history. His plays make up a literary canon that has been translated into every language, is constantly being reproduced on the stage and on film and has persisted in popularity for centuries. Yet, Shakespeare’s first and most popular text is not a play, but the narrative poem, Venus and Adonis. The text that launched Shakespeare into popularity and gave rise to this cultural icon was a poem, rather than a play. But despite its initial success, Venus and Adonis is not a central feature of the modern literary canon and Shakespeare’s original role as a poet has been overshadowed by his achievements in theatre. This paper sets out to explore what happened to Shakespeare’s legacy in poetry by examining the commercial history and aesthetic form of two of Shakespeare’s poems: Venus and Adonis and the sonnets. I will address how the dramatic literary canon was created and why it revolves around Shakespeare as solely a playwright.