The Rape of Lucrece (1594) is a narrative poem by William Shakespeare about the legendary Lucretia.
In his previous narrative poem, Venus and Adonis (1593), Shakespeare had included a dedicatory letter to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, in which he promised to write a "graver work". Sure enough, The Rape of Lucrece lacks the humorous tone of the earlier poem.
Lucrece draws on the story described in both Ovid's Fasti and Livy's history of Rome. In 509 BCE, Sextus Tarquinius, son of Tarquin, the king of Rome, raped Lucretia (Lucrece), wife of Collatinus, one of the king's aristocratic retainers. As a result, Lucrece committed suicide. Her body was paraded in the Roman Forum by the king's nephew, Lucius Junius Brutus. This incited a full-scale revolt against the Tarquins, the banishment of the royal family, and the founding of the Roman republic.
Shakespeare retains the essence of this story, although he adds the detail that Tarquin's lust for Lucrece springs from her husband's own praise of her, before he ever saw her. Shakespeare later used the same idea in Cymbeline, in which Imogen is symbolically raped by Giacomo, who is inspired by her husband Posthumus's praise of her virtues. Like Shakespeare's other raped women, Lucrece also gains symbolic value: through her suicide, her body is metamorphosed into a political symbol that serves as a form of eloquence her speech could not attain.
Last Edit: 4 years 9 months ago by William Shakespeare.
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