Rape of Lucrece

Allusions to Lucrece in other works by Shakespeare

Shakespeare retains the essence of the classic story, incorporating Livy's account that Tarquin's lust for Lucrece sprang from her husband's own praise of her.[2] Shakespeare later used the same idea in the late romance Cymbeline (circa 1609–1610). In this play, Iachimo bets Posthumus (Imogen's husband) that he can make Imogen commit adultery with him. He does not succeed. However, Iachimo convinces Posthumus otherwise using information about Imogen's bedchamber and body. Iachimo hid in a trunk which was delivered to Imogen's chamber under the pretence of safekeeping some jewels, a gift for her father, King Cymbeline. The scene in which he emerges from the trunk (2.2) mimics the scene in The Rape of Lucrece. Indeed, Iachimo compares himself to Tarquin in the scene: "Our Tarquin thus, / Did softly press the rushes ere he waken'd / The chastity he wounded" (2.2.12–14). Lucrece is also closely related to the early Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus (circa 1590–94). In this revenge play, when the raped and mutilated Lavinia reveals the identity of her rapists, her uncle Marcus invokes the story of Lucrece to urge an oath to revenge the crime: "And swear with me—as, with the woeful fere / And father of that chaste dishonoured dame, / Lord Junius Brutus swore for Lucrece' rape-- / That we will prosecute by good advice / Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths, / And see their blood, or die with this reproach" (4.1.89–94).The rapist Tarquin is also mentioned in Macbeth's soliloquy from Act 2 Scene 1 of Macbeth: "wither'd Murther . . . With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design / Moves like a ghost" (2.1.52–56). Tarquin's actions and cunning are compared with Macbeth's indecision – both rape and regicide are unforgivable crimes. In Taming of the Shrew Act 2, Scene 1, Petruchio promises Baptista, the father of Katherine (the Shrew), that once he marries Katherine "for patience she will prove second Grisel, / And Roman Lucrece for her chastity" (2.1.292-3). In Twelfth Night, Maria's letter in Olivia's handwriting designed to gull Malvolio reads: "I may command where I adore; But silence, like a Lucrece knife, With bloodless stroke my heart doth gore: M, O, A, I, doth sway my life." As Malvolio interprets the "fustian riddle," Olivia's inability or unwillingness to speak of her love for him is killing her, like the literal knife of Lucretia's suicide.


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