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The Rape of Lucrece

William Shakespeare

Book Overview: 

The Rape of Lucrece is a narrative poem by William Shakespeare about the legendary Lucretia. Lucrece draws on the story described in both Ovid's Fasti and Livy's history of Rome. In 509 BC, 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. This incited a full-scale revolt against the Tarquins led by Lucius Junius Brutus, the banishment of the royal family, and the founding of the Roman republic. (Summary by Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Then my digression is so vile, so base,
  That it will live engraven in my face.

'Yea, though I die, the scandal will survive,

And be an eye-sore in my golden coat;
Some loathsome dash the herald will contrive,
To cipher me how fondly I did dote;
That my posterity, shamed with the note,
  Shall curse my bones, and hold it for no sin
  To wish that I their father had not been.

'What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to 'get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
  Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
  Would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?

'If Collatinus dream of my intent,
Will he not wake, and in a desperate rage
Post hither, this vile. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Didn't think I'd like at all a story with this subject matter, but I was just wowed by it . Shakespeare's words, rhythm, and rhymes, plus listening to Richard Burton read it so perfectly, made this a truly metaphorical rendering of the story. The images and ideas kept me in the story and yet detache

Read for English lit - read an extremely in-depth analysis of quotes and the plot as a translation. It is powerful and moving to see the effects of rape on a young woman in the Elizabethan era and male dominance. Another example of Shakespeare not being completely novel in his ideas but still a very

Phenomenal insight into the psyche of victim and attacker. Beautifully written. Wonderful uses of figurative language that provokes thought. Still relevent and can be applied to present day

A brutal and touching poem based on an historical event.

I count it a real reading victory to have finished and appreciated this poem considering it was what derailed me several years ago in my first attempt to read the whole Shakespeare canon. The military images, in particular everything related to the Trojan War, especially captured my imagination.


It's Shakespeare. I don't need to rave on about why this is excellent, but I'll settle for a little summary. In this poem, what is most important (and given the most of Shakespeare's words) is the reaction to the rape. The sorrow that is felt, the guilt, the anger, the despair. The lines themselves

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