Tarquin and Lucretia
Giuseppe Maria Crespi (1665-1747) Tarquin and Lucretia 1695 Bolognese, oil

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"The Rape of Lucrece"
by William Shakespeare

Lucretia recounts her rape by Sextus Tarquinius:


'Then be this all the task is hath to say
Dear husband, in the interest of thy bed
A stranger came, and on that pillow lay
Where thou was wont to rest thy weary head;
And what wrong else may be imagined
By foul enforcement might be done to me,
From that, alas, thy Lucrece is not free.
1621
'For in the dreadful dead of the dark midnight,
With shining falchion in my chamber came
A creeping creature, with a flaming light,
And softly cried 'Awake, thou Roman dame,
And entertain my love, else lasting shame
On thee and thine this night I will inflict,
If though my love's desire do contradict.
1628
'For some hard-favour'd groom of thine,' quoth he,
'Unless thou yoke thy liking to my will,
I'll murder straight, and then I'll slaughter thee
And swear I found you when you did fulfil
The loathsome act of lust, and so did kill
The lechers in their deed: this act will be
My fame and they perpetual infamy.'
1635
'With this, I did begin to start and cry;
And then against my heart he sets his sword,
Swearing, unless I took all patiently,
I should not live to speak another word;
So should my name still rest upon record,
And never be forgot in mighty Rome
Th' adulterate death of Lucrece and her groom.
1642
'Mine enemy was strong, my poor self weak,
And far the weaker with so strong a fear:
My bloody judge forbade my tongue to speak;
No rightful plea might plead for justice there:
His scarlet lust came evidence to swear
That my poor beauty had purloin'd his eyes;
And when the judge is robb'd the prisoner dies.
1649
'O, teach me how to make mine own excuse!
Or at the least this refuge let me find;
Though my gross blood be stain'd with this abuse,
Immaculate and spotless is my mind;
That was not forced; that never was inclined
To accessary yieldings, but still pure
Doth in her poison'd closet yet endure.'
1656


The suicide:


Even here she sheathed in her harmless breast
A harmful knife, that thence her soul unsheathed:
That blow did that it from the deep unrest
Of that polluted prison where it breathed:
Her contrite sighs unto the clouds bequeath'd
Her winged sprite, and through her wounds doth fly
Life's lasting date from cancell'd destiny.
1726


Husband Collatine and family exact revenge on Lucretia's rape:


'Now, by the Capitol that we adore,
And by this chaste blood so unjustly stain'd,
By heaven's fair sun that breeds the fat earth's store,
By all our country rights in Rome maintain'd,
And by chaste Lucrece' soul that late complain'd
Her wrongs to us, and by this bloody knife
We will revenge the death of this true wife.'
1838
This said, he struck his hand upon his breast,
And kiss'd the fatal knife, to end his vow;
And to his protestation urged the rest,
Who, wondering at him, did his words allow:
Then jointly to the ground their knees they bow;
And that deep vow, which Brutus made before,
He doth again repeat, and that they swore.
1845
When they had sworn to this advised doom,
They did conclude to bear dead Lucrece thence;
To show her bleeding body thorough Rome,
And so to publish Tarquin's foul offence:
Which being done with speedy diligence,
The Romans plausibly did give consent
To Tarquin's everlasting banishment.
1852
 

 

Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy Lucretia's Death 1611-1668 Photo © Maicar Forlag -GML
 
Reference:
© 2005 http://www.william-shakespeare.info/william-shakespeare-poem-the-rape-of-lucrece.htm

 

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