“Never durst a poet touch pen to write,
Until his ink were temper’d with Love’s sighs;
O, then his lines would ravish savage ears
And plant in tyrants mild humility.”
– Love’s Labours Lost, Act IV, Scene iii –
William Shakespeare is of course best known today for his plays, but in Elizabethan England poetry was more important to a writer’s literary reputation.
Some scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote his two long poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, during a period of forced unemployment in 1592–94, when an outbreak of the plague closed London’s theaters.
Venus and Adonis was published in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece in 1594.
The sonnets and two other long poems, The Phoenix and the Turtle and A Lover’s Complaint, are also thought to have been written early in his career.
The Long Poems