Rape of Lucrece

Who Is the Victim?: The Power Struggle of Sexual Abuse in The Rape of Lucrece College

It is clear that William Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece examines the psychological effects of rape. However, what is less clear is the effects of power that this poem portrays and how it interacts with sexual violence. Power plays a crucial part in the poem before, during, and after the act of sexual violence. This is apparent through the struggle that Tarquin has with lust, Lucrece’s inability to prevent Tarquin from overcoming her, and the culpability that Lucrece feels after the fact. These three stages set up a power dynamic that centers around the act of rape.

The first instance of this power struggle comes with Tarquin’s fight against the “power” of lust. In the bible, lust is clearly outlined as a sin. Matthew 5:28 says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (ESV Matthew 5:28). Generally, sin is looked at as something that one fights with but is expected to overcome. However, in The Rape of Lucrece lust has a certain power over Tarquin. This power seems to be far greater than normal sin. It is so great that Tarquin cannot overcome it. After he is essentially defeated by lust, the poem reads, “By reprobate desire thus madly led, The Roman lord...

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