The theme of rape in elizabethan and jacobean literary texts

Examination Thesis, 2006
76 Pages, Grade: 1,3



A. Introduction
I. Introduction into the topic
II. Aim of the present study and its position in current research

B. Definition of ‘rape’: narrowing of the term?

C. The notion of rape in antique, medieval and Renaissance times
I. Beliefs about rape in Antiquity: connection with honour
II. Medieval and Renaissance attitudes: rape as a theft of property

D. Literary forerunners: the “rape of Lucrece” in Antiquity and the Middle Ages
I. The “rape of Lucrece” in Antiquity
1. Political focus: Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita
2. The importance of the Roman calendar: Ovid’s Fasti
3. Roman myth for Greek readers: Dionysius Halicarnassos’
Antiquitates Romanae
II. The reception of the ancient myth of Lucrece in
Christian and medieval literature
1. Lucrece as a self-murderer: St Augustine’s De Civitate Dei Contra
2. An unconscious Lucrece: Gower’s Confessio Amantis
and Chaucer’s The Legend of Good Women

E. Different adaptations of the “rape of Lucrece”
in the English Renaissance

I. William Shakespeare’s Lucrece
1. Structure of the text, context, reception history
2. Sources of Shakespeare’s adaptation
3. Textual analysis
a. Lucrece’s chastity: a virtue to be conquered
b. Tarquin’s lust: a double-edged sword
c. Description of the actual rape
d. Different ways of dealing with the rape
i. Lucrece’s different stages in her complaint
and her subsequent suicide
ii. Tarquin: a troubled rapist
iii. Reactions of her husband, father and friends
e. Tarquin’s banishment: the “Argument” and the
last stanza of the poem
II. Thomas Middleton’s The Ghost of Lucrece
1. Structure of the text, context, reception history
2. Sources of Middleton’s adaptation
3. Textual analysis
a. Lucrece: from chaste wife to lustful whore
b. Tarquin: a lecherous ghost in Hell
c. Reminiscences of the actual rape
d. Different ways of dealing with the rape
i. Lucrece’s raging complaint and the re-enactment of her suicide
ii. Tarquin the ghost: raping Lucrece a second time?
e. The dedication, the Latin text, the prologue and the epilogue
III. Thomas Heywood’s The Rape of Lucrece
1. Structure of the text, context, reception history
2. Sources of Heywood’s adaptation
3. Textual analysis
a. Lucrece’s chastity: a virtue also imposed on the household
b. Tarquin: a lecherous prince in an infected state
c. The dialogue leading up to the actual rape
d. Different ways of dealing with the rape
i. Lucrece’s complaint and her heroic suicide
ii. Tarquin: Remorseful rapist?
iii. Reactions of her husband, father and friends
e. The rape as a reason for heroic deeds and
the slaughter of the Tarquins

F. Conclusion: comparative analysis of the three Renaissance texts

G. Bibliography
I. Primary Texts
II. Secondary Texts

A. Introduction

I. Introduction into the topic

The topic of the present study is “The Theme of Rape in Elizabethan and Jacobean Literary Texts”, that is –to name it with a more general term- in two parts of the English Renaissance period. At first rape and Renaissance literature do not seem to be very closely connected but they can be linked quite easily as Barbara Baines explains: “For an inquiry into the history and thus the ideology of rape, the Renaissance is an ideal period because it both re-presents medieval and classical assumptions and lays the foundation for what we recognize as our own modern concerns.”[1]

Rape is one of the most hideous crimes humanity can think of. The term and also the inherent concept behind it, implies a lot about the intrinsic balance of power between the victim and the rapist. Although normally most people imagine a woman as the sufferer and a man as the perpetrator, gender boundaries are blurred and it is dependent on social conventions how people involved in rape are treated by their surroundings. These more general thoughts can be applied to rape in reality, but also to rape as a theme in literature.[2] Authors of all ages have written either about violation itself or included it as a literary device in their texts to convey certain ideas.

The term ‘renaissance’ usually means a rebirth of and a renewed interest in Antiquity, that is in antique texts and ideas, legends or myths. During the Renaissance period most of the contemporary authors turned to ancient Greek and Roman sources for literary themes, topics and motives. In England, one of the most used authors was Ovid, in whose oeuvre, for example in the Metamorphoses and the Fasti, the theme of rape is included.

The famous playwright and poet William Shakespeare took the rape of Philomele, a topic which he used for both Titus Andronicus and Lucrece, from the Metamorphosis and the myth of the rape of Lucrece from the Fasti for his poem of the same name. He was the first of three authors to develop a literary text out of this founding myth of the Roman republic between 1590 and 1610. In the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Shakespeare and his fellow author Thomas Middleton wrote and published two poems individually, Lucrece in 1594 and The Ghost of Lucrece in 1600. The third text which depicted Lucrece’s fate was Thomas Heywood’s play The Rape of Lucrece from 1608, written and performed under the reign of King James I.

The general background of the story is as follows:

During a lull in the Roman siege of Ardea (509 BC), young Prince Tarquin and some noble friends rode home in secret to spy into the behaviour of their wives. Only Collatine’s wife, Lucrece, was found virtuously at home, spinning wool with her maids and longing for her husband’s safe return; the others were all abroad, dancing and revelling. So Lucrece was judged the moist chaste, and the night visitors rode back to Ardea. But ironically, […], blind love for Lucrece had suddenly infected Prince Tarquin. The more unachievable she seemed, the more hotly he desired her. So he returned secretly to Collatine’s residence, where Lucrece chastely welcomed him as both kinsman and guest. At night, he sneaked into Lucrece’s bedchamber, raped her, and fled. Lucrece summoned her husband and father from the siege, told them of the rape and stabbed herself to death. She thus became the catalyst for the resultant banishment of the Tarquins, and the establishment of the republic.[3]

However, the three Renaissance authors were not the first to depict this myth. In the present study they are presented as a sort of final stage of a literary tradition, which began in Antiquity itself and was developed further at the end of the Roman Empire and during the Middle Ages.

The rape of Lucrece was also a topic for three antique authors, who, like Shakespeare, Middleton and Heywood, were contemporaries. Livy in his Ab Urbe Condita concentrated on presenting the myth in its historical setting and chronological order. He also included the background story, which was later taken up by Heywood, but only alluded to by Shakespeare: Tarquin Superbus, the father of Lucrece’s ravisher, was goaded by his wife Tullia into killing Servius Tullius, his father-in-law and king of Rome, and into usurping the latter’s throne. Ovid, however, focused more on the rape itself and its consequences but he also embedded it into a larger context. He arranged his Fasti in accordance with the Roman calendar: the rape of Lucrece takes place on the 24th February. As Livy’s text, published earlier, was one of his literary sources, Ovid’s account has much in common with the report of his contemporary although he also changed it according to his own taste and specific purpose. The third antique author was Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who moved from what is today Turkey to Rome at the age of approximately 28.[4] He aspired to write a history of Rome, the Antiquitates Romanae, for Greek readers to justify the claim that “the heritage of the Greeks”[5] was “bestowed on the basest of barbarians”.[6] As most Greek readers were ignorant of the early history of Rome he strove to fill this gap. Dionysius’ report differs the most from both Livy and Ovid and it is interesting to analyze in which instances his influence on the three Renaissance authors might be detected.

De Civitate Dei contra Paganos by Saint Augustine is the next written record of the myth to be included here. He is the first author to bring a Christian layer to the pagan story. He quickly touches on the ‘historical facts’ but develops at length his argument that he sees a double-edged problem here. “If there is no impurity in her being ravished not consenting, there is no justice in her being punished not unchaste.”[7] Here, the Christian ambiguity of Lucrece’s rape and suicide has its origin, an ambiguity which can be traced in all of the Renaissance texts and also in two medieval writings: the Confessio Amantis by John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Legend of Good Women. These two, however, added a new layer to the myth: when Tarquin threatens her, Lucrece is so overwhelmed with fear that she loses consciousness. There is a double layer here: because of her unconsciousness she is clearly innocent but that makes her suicide even more terrifying.

II. Aim of the present study and its position in current research

By having a look at these literary forerunners and analyzing to what extent they might have been used by the Renaissance authors, I like to put myself in the tradition of Geoffrey Bullough’s Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare from 1957, but at the same time take his research one step further. In his chapter about The Rape of Lucrece he names Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, Ovid’s Fasti in the original Latin version and in the translation by John Gower, and finally William Painter’s translation of Livy in his Palace of Pleasure. But why did he not also include Livy in the Latin version? And why has he failed to look further into Gower’s own English works? I cannot explain these gaps but I would like to make up for them by including all the above mentioned texts here.[8] Shakespeare, Middleton and Heywood each had knowledge of at least some of the texts, but they chose to make their own changes in their respective adaptations of the myth. These changes, though, were in part influential on how their texts were perceived and, in the case of Shakespeare and Middleton, accepted by their patrons or, in the case of Heywood, by the audience in the theatre. Shakespeare’s 1594 Lucrece was a great success and established him as a fine poet, alongside his earlier Venus and Adonis, whereas Middleton’s Ghost of Lucrece was a complete failure, which is said to be one reason why he left his studies at Oxford before completing his degree and tried, this time successfully, to earn money as a playwright.[9] Heywood’s play The Rape of Lucrece was very popular and well received in its day, although the figure of King Tarquin bears similarities to King James, that the 1616 version of Shakespeare’s poem saw a title-change, as if to secure part of Heywood’s fame for the poem through a similarity of names.[10] The former running-title The Rape of Lucrece was made into the new title of the poem, which had until then only been called Lucrece. This is one of the indications that Shakespeare, Middleton and Heywood certainly knew each other’s works, which will also to be shown in the course of the present study.

However, an analysis of the literary forerunners and their use in the Renaissance texts is not my only topic of interest. My starting point for the present study was Paul Edmondson’s reading of the end of Shakespeare’s poem as a “second rape”[11]. He perceives rape “as a result of (usually) male authority and power taking possession of another’s (male or female) body”[12] and explains that in the final stanza “a spoilt and ruined body is now itself paraded with male authority before the common view.”[13] He adds that

there is a correlation between my point of view and the phenomenon of pornography which, like rape, assumes the power of the viewer over the ‘suffering’ object. One only has to imagine the male population of Rome looking at Lucrece’s dead body with anything like imagined lust, or re-imagining the rape which has taken place, for the decision to parade her body to seem like a second ravishment.[14]

This reading of the poem’s final stanzas is only one of the most recent ending-points in a critical tradition which began with Shakespeare and the Nature of Women by Juliet Dusinberre, published in 1975 and often mentioned as the starting point of feminist criticism, and later on gender centred research, of Shakespeare’s oeuvre[15], which means in the narrower context of the present study of the poem. “Before feminist criticism developed, for the most part readers avoided confronting the rape directly”[16] and to Nazife Bashar “it seems that rape is too risky, too contemporary, too political a subject to be dealt with comfortable”[17] by male scholars. Since the ‘official starting point’ mentioned above much has been written about Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece: the poem is understood either as a “critique of the ideology of gender on which the Renaissance understanding of Rome was based”,[18] or as one way in which a specific woman, namely Lucrece, represents herself in a special system,[19] that is in a patriarchal system, or as a means to show “a powerful person who resists evil with an act that leads to the overthrow of a long line of tyrannous kings and the establishment of representative government in Rome”[20].

It is remarkable however, that the scholars from whom I quote above are almost exclusively concerned with Shakespeare. The texts by Middleton and Heywood are, more often than not, ignored or only touched upon.[21] Therefore, the present study is also a response to scholars like Paulina Kewes, who seems to complain in her article that Heywood’s “play has attracted so little critical attention from students of Shakespeare’s poem.”[22] It has been interesting to discover during my research that nobody apparently has combined the three texts in a full-length study, although they were all written in a period of only 20 years. Two of them might be united like Shakespeare and Heywood in Kewes’s article or Shakespeare and Middleton as in Anna Swärdth’s doctoral thesis[23] but obviously all three together have not been possible so far. Just as with the new combination of possible source-texts, I would like to fill a gap here as well, taking the feminist critics’ point of view who have analyzed Shakespeare’s poem so far, but taking the analysis a step further by including the two other Elizabethan and Jacobean texts, who depict Lucrece’s tragic fate.

In addition, to embed the poems in a real life social context; I have decided, after a short definition of the term ‘rape’ in chapter B, to give an introduction into the antique, medieval and Renaissance beliefs and laws about rape in chapter C. In chapter D the possible source-texts are considered, before I turn to the three Renaissance texts in chapter E. Afterwards, in chapter F, I am going to compare the two poems and the play and sum up my conclusions drawn from the analysis.

B. Definition of ‘rape’: narrowing of the term?

The term rape was developed out of the Latin word ‘rapere’, which means ‘to take by force’. At first ‘rape’, in contrast to today, stood for two meanings but the concept or notion behind the term has changed over time. The OED gives three different definitions: firstly, it formerly designated the “act of taking anything by force; violent seizure (of goods), robbery”[24], but this is now obsolete. Secondly, “the act of carrying away a person, especially a woman, by force”[25] can be called ‘rape’, but here, another meaning is often attached: “violation or ravishing of a woman”[26]. This poses the user of the word in front of a different problem. ‘ravishment’ itself can either mean ‘abduction’ or ‘violation’[27].

An antique example for the second explanation would be the rape of the Sabine women, whereas the third is the notion behind the rape of Lucrece. In Renaissance times, these two meanings of ‘rape’ were still in use, which can also be seen in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: Demetrius and Chiron rape Lavinia, that is to violate her sexually, whereas Bassianus rapes her in the sense of carrying her away by force, when he sees his claim to her, signified by their mutual engagement, in danger.

Alexander Pope, in the 18th century, still used the first OED meaning in his The Rape of the Lock (1712), but the title, as ‘rape’ as in ‘theft’ was not that common any longer, seems to evoke laughter. It could be easily used for word-play. How can a lock be raped? With this mock-epic Pope’s intention was to make his readers laugh.[28] He first excited the reader through the use of the word ‘rape’, but then let this excitement fall flat by naming a lock as the object. According to the OED, the sense of “taking anything by force” was not realised any more with ‘rape’ after 1712.

Today usage of the term also does not include this meaning of ‘theft or seizure’, but in texts which pretend to be old, like Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, ‘rape’ is still used in this sense. The theft of the jewels by Morgoth is also known as the rape of the Silmarilli, which has no sexual connotation at all.

However, in my opinion, in The Lord of the Rings Tolkien uses ‘rape’ in an ambiguous context. He names “the sack of the City and the rape of Gondor”[29]. Here, it can either mean ‘violent seizure of goods’ by soldiers ransacking Gondor, or ‘violation’ of the female inhabitants. This fictional usage is paralleled by the use of ‘rape’ for a real historic event: ‘rape’ as a name is also used for a very violent situation like in the ‘Rape of Nanking’. As Nanking is a city, which naturally cannot be raped, ravished or violated, the term is used to name the massacre which happened in this Chinese town from December 1937 until January 1938. About 200,000 inhabitants[30] were killed by Japanese troops. Ironically, many girls and women were raped before being murdered.

It can be inferred that ‘rape’ today might be again used as a broader term with several inherent meanings but with the modern basis on the sexual connotation, in contrast to the original meaning of ‘theft’. Clearly the term ‘rape’ is not that narrow any longer.

C. The notion of rape in antique, medieval and Renaissance times

I. Beliefs about rape in Antiquity: connection with honour

For ancient Roman times it is difficult to separate real life believes about rape from laws. It cannot be strictly proven today which thought belongs to which category. This is also true for the different periods of Roman life. Its beliefs and ideas were developed over many centuries and it can no longer be deduced which idea is taken from which period. Therefore, in this chapter equal status is given to ideas expressed through laws and social ideas, because law “is meant to serve what a given society conceives as its interests, by proscribing or prescribing particular actions.”[31]

What they all had in common, though, was the underlying notion that the insult done to the woman was automatically also perceived as an insult and threat against the honour of her male relatives.[32] Prosecution for a rape offence was always also possible for husbands, fiancés and fathers of the raped women or girls. Rape was regarded as “a capital charge”[33], a fact which had as a consequence one of the three capital punishments for the rapist: death, banishment or diminution of the civil status.[34] But if the victim’s male relatives took matters into their own hands to revenge the raped girl or woman and restore the family honour by killing the offender, prosecution against them was very lenient. Self-help was still in use in Roman society and was nothing unusual.[35]

But rape was also damaging for the victim herself: an unmarried Roman girl was to be chaste. Chastity was a vital element in the girl’s value for marriage, and if she had been violated before, her future was irrevocably spoiled. It got worse if she conceived during the rape. “She lost her value as an object of exchange between families and could redeem herself only by death.”[36]

In the case of a married woman having been raped, a pregnancy even brought up more problems and damage to the family honour. The continuance of the Roman families depended on legitimate children and bastards were regarded as a real threat.[37] “A woman’s chastity is a family attribute”[38] and when a pregnancy was discovered, the woman’s resistance against the rape could be questioned. But that also soiled the family honour. When the rapist was able to prove successfully that the woman consented at least partially to the rape, with or without her being pregnant afterwards, the woman could be sued for adultery and the husband could be sued for not divorcing her.[39]

As can be inferred, rape in Roman Antiquity already presented a real problem for all involved, but especially for the violated girl or woman. It was more often than not that the emotional state of the victim was overlaid by social ‘ethics’ and completely forgotten.

II. Medieval and Renaissance attitudes: rape as a theft of property

The difference between the punishment mentioned in medieval and Renaissance rape laws and the actual outcome in court is most striking for scholars who have researched laws and passed sentences.

Medieval and later Renaissance laws recognized rape mostly as an expression of power relations between men.[40] In addition, the terms ‘rape’ and ‘abduction’ were used interchangeably at first.[41] They both described simply “the theft of a woman”[42]. Rape was seen as a crime against men’s property and moveable goods, and the consent of the woman was not important. Royal statutes of 1275, 1285, 1382 and 1487 were all mostly concerned with ‘rape’ as ‘theft’, with the means of recovering the stolen goods and punishing all parties involved, the offender as well as the offended woman.[43]

“The fact that rape was primarily a crime against property is underscored by the law’s concern for the loss of virginity in rape; prosecutions and convictions almost always pertained to cases involving the virginity of young girls.”[44] The hymen, as a part of the body, symbolised chastity as a material object.[45] However, this point of view about untouched girls produced paradox cases of punishment, when it came to gang rape, because “to defile a virgin and to lie with one defiled [are different deeds].”[46] Before the Statutes of 1275 and 1285, also known as Westminster I and II, the rapist was to lose his eyes and testicles when he defiled a virgin victim.[47] The kind of punishment for other raped girls or women changed according to the victim’s relationship with men. The highest punishment was administered for rapes of virgins, the lowest for rapes of prostitutes. After the 1285 Act the normal penalty for rape was death[48], and another Act from 1576 took away the benefit of ‘clergy’[49] from the convicted rapist.

In reality, “few rapes came to trial in early modern England and only a small minority of cases resulted in conviction.”[50] One of the reasons for this might have been “the period belief that pregnancy proves female consent, and so invalidates a rape charge.”[51] Conception was taken to be a clear indication that the woman consented to the rape. Therefore, it seemed to be more likely that the woman was accused of bastardy than the man for raping the woman.[52] According to Bashar’s article “theft and murder were more likely to be reported than rape. Theft involved a material loss of property, and murder a missing person or a dead body.”[53]

As today it was difficult to prove non-consent to rape. In order to at least try to supply evidence against consent, the female victim

must go at once and while the deed is newly done, with the hue and cry, to the neighbouring townships and there show the injury done her to men of good repute, the blood and her clothing stained with blood, and her torn garments. And in the same way she ought to go to the reeve of the hundred, the king’s serjeant, the coroners and the sheriff.[54]

As this is a paraphrase from Bracton’s medieval text, which was written shortly before Westminster I and II, to be found in a text for legal advice from the third decade of the seventeenth century, it can be inferred that not much had changed in between. Consent was always a difficult problem, be it in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. “In fact, the complexities and ambiguities surrounding the concept of consent which plague the legal procedures in the late twentieth century emerge in the Renaissance”[55], as Barbara Baines puts it and which can also be seen in the three Renaissance texts.

D. Literary forerunners: the “rape of Lucrece” in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

I. The “rape of Lucrece” in Antiquity

1. Political focus: Titus Livius’ Ab Urbe Condita

Titus Livius was born in Patavium (the modern Patavia) in 59 BC and died there in 17 AD, although he lived in Rome for most of his life, where he enjoyed the friendship and patronage of the Emperor Augustus. His everlasting sympathy with the senate has given rise to assumptions about a possible aristocratic background.[56]

Ab Urbe Condita, composed in 142 books, begins with the legend of Aeneas and ends with the death of Drusius in 9 BC. The author aspired to depict an ideal Rome in his prose narrative by ordering his history according to the Stoic principle of morality and virtue.

Livy was the first of the three antique authors to include the “rape of Lucrece”, which is depicted at the end of Book 1, in his text.[57] He describes the situation before the rape, beginning with the usurpation of the throne by Tarquin Superbus and the murder of Servius Tullius, as well as the war with Gabii and the questioning of the oracle of Delphi. Finally, the siege of Ardea is mentioned and the basis is laid for the following events: the bet over their wives’ virtues brings about the proposition of Collatinus to ride to each man’s house to check on their wives. Whereas, in Rome, the King’s daughters-in-law were found partying, drinking and amusing themselves with young men, chaste Lucretia was discovered spinning with her maids. Collatinus therefore won the contest, but has unwisely exposed his wife to danger. Sextus Tarquinius, upon seeing Lucretia, is seized with lust for her. A few days later, he visits her again. Lucretia, who does not suspect anything, welcomes him at the house. During the night, Sextus steals to her bedchamber, where he holds her down threatens her with death and declares his love for her. However, this cannot move Lucretia to yield to him but as he threatens her with dishonour by killing his slave, laying him by her side and declaring to have found them while committing adultery, she submits to his will. After the rape Lucretia grieves and sends messages to her father and to her husband to come to the house and bring their friends. Spurius Lucretius, her father, comes with Publius Valerius and Collatinus comes with Lucius Junius Brutus, who is said to be a fool. Lucrece reveals the rape and the name of her assailant and commits suicide only moments after, because, as she explains, she does not want to give other unfaithful women an excuse for committing adultery. But she admits that Tarquin might also be damaged by the rape. The men surrounding her in that moment are to decide by which means he should be punished and, because they have tried to console her that it was not her fault, her husband and father grieve over her dead body.

Now the focus of the scene shifts from Lucretia to Brutus. He has only acted as a fool so far to escape death and persecution. After the oath he resumes a moral responsibility and asks the others to make war against the Tarquins and to honour Lucretia’s last wish for revenge. They carry Lucretia’s dead body to the market-place, and therefore inform the public what Sextus has done to her. Many men, led by Brutus, march towards Rome. The latter speaks to the people in the Forum and “enflamed the people”[58] to exile Lucius Tarquinius and his family. They succeed in their plan and only Sextus, who has sought refuge with the Gabii, is slain there because of his earlier betrayal.

Livy ends this episode of the Roman legendary past with a summing up of the political facts and achievements.

Lucius Tarquinius Superbus ruled for five and twenty years. The rule of the kings at Rome, from its foundation to its liberation, lasted two hundreds and forty-four years. Two consuls were then chosen in the centuriate comitia, under the presidency of the Prefect of the City, in accordance with the commentaries of Servius Tullius. These were Lucius Junius Brutus and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus.[59]

The focus in Livy’s account is on the one hand more directed towards individual characters like Lucretia, Tarquin, Collatinus and Brutus and their respective deeds and morals. On the other hand, he depicts the myth plain and simple, in accordance with his aim already mentioned above. He combines private and public, or political, life by first concentrating the narrative on Lucretia in her home and Tarquin’s intrusion and then looking more closely on Brutus and his ‘disguise’ as a fool to await a suitable opportunity for revolution against the tyranny of Tarquin Superbus and his sons. In this paragraph, as in many others, acceptable Roman virtue can be seen by the reader and therefore imitated and praised.

2. The importance of the Roman calendar: Ovid’s Fasti

Ovid was born in 43 BC in Sulmo (the modern Solmona) in the Apennines, about 90 miles from Rome, and died in Tomi on the western shore of the Black Sea in 17 or 18 AD, to where he was exiled by Augustus. Ovid was educated in Rome, where he soon turned to poetry as a profession.[60]

The Fasti, one of his mature works, are often considered as his most important work besides the Metamorphoses. This elegiac poem was meant to cover the whole Roman calendar, yet only the first six books, which depict the first six months day by day, are still known. Ovid turned to another literary genre, which in consequence changed also his style and focus, whereas Livy wrote a prose narrative.

The “rape of Lucrece”, described in Book II, takes place on the 24th February[61], a day which is named “the Flight of the King”[62]. Ovid quickly introduces Tarquin Superbus as “the last to reign over the Roman people”[63] and then goes over to the war with Gabii. This first transition is rather smooth whereas the next one in line 711 is rather sudden and has no obvious connection with the previous narrative. Here, the author relates the account of the Delphic oracle and explains why Brutus behaved like a fool. The change to the myth of the “rape of Lucrece” occurs in line 721 with the siege of Ardea. Ovid depicts it as happening at almost the same time as the visit to the oracle. He begins his tale of the myth with the bet and the chastity-proof as Livy does, but when he depicts the worries of Lucrece about her absent husband, he gives her speech. When she begins to weep and cry Collatinus consoles her. Tarquin is enflamed by her beauty and behaviour and resolves to “dare the utmost”[64]. The next evening, when he rides to her house, Ovid refers to the sun as a hiding device for him, which was later taken up by Shakespeare. When he finally enters her bedchamber in the night, Ovid, like Livy, only gives voice to Tarquin and just narrates Lucretia’s reactions to the latter’s threats and brutal force. Whereas Livy narrates the rape scene in a more unemotional voice, Ovid makes use of one the comparisons which crop up in the later texts: Lucretia trembles “as trembles a little lamb that, caught straying from the fold, lies low under a ravening wolf.”[65] But in both narratives, the threat of dishonour is not obviously connected with Collatine; it is rather inherent or implied by the term ‘adultery’. Both authors also already include the idea that Tarquin himself has been damaged in a way by the rape.

Afterwards Ovid describes shortly the grieving Lucrece but he mentions that only her husband and father are sent for. In contrast to Livy’s tale, where Lucretia speaks at once and tells all, she is only able to speak after three futile attempts: she names her ravisher but not the deed itself. She only blushes. Her father and husband absolve her, but she does not pardon herself and stabs herself with a knife. “Even then in dying she took care to sink down decently: that was her thought even as she fell.”[66] When her father and Collatinus moan over her dead body Brutus comes by, takes the knife out of her wound, throws away his folly and swears to revenge her. The end comes rather suddenly after this oath, but here some of the major changes to Livy can be perceived. Firstly, Lucrece seems to ratify the wish for revenge because “even as she lay, she moved her lightless eyes and seemed by the stirring of her hair to ratify the speech.”[67] Her body is borne to be buried, instead of being paraded in front of all, in the course of which the people see her wound on the way as a kind of accusation against Tarquin and the Quirites are further goaded into action by Brutus.

The end is very short when compared to Livy. It simply says: “Tarquinius and his brood were banished. A consul undertook the government for a year. That day was the last of kingly rule.”[68] Livy informs the reader that there were two consuls and he even names them. Ovid lists only one nameless person as substitute for the king. He also supposes banishment for all of the Tarquins and no death for Sextus. But whereas Ovid mentions that the consul held his office for only one year Livy names nothing of the sort.


[1] Barbara J. Baines, “Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation”, in: English Literary History 65.1, 1998, p. 69.

[2] Cp. Ellen Rooney’s remarks about seductive women in her article “Criticism and the Subject of Sexual Violence”, in: Modern Language Notes – Comparative Literature 98, 1983, No. 3, p. 1269-1278.

[3] G. B. Shand, “Introduction to Middleton’s The Ghost of Lucrece”, in: Middleton, Thomas. “The Ghost of Lucrece”, ed. G. B. Shand, in: Thomas Middleton, Collected Works, gen. ed. Gary Taylor (OUP, forthcoming).

[4] Cp. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, The Roman Antiquities – Vol. I, trans. Earnest Cary. London and Cambridge (Massachusetts): William Heinemann Ltd. and Harvard University Press, reprinted edition 1961, p. vii-ix.

[5] Ibid., p. xiii.

[6] Ibid., p. xiii.

[7] Saint Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans – Vol. I, trans. George E. McCracken. London and Cambridge (Massachusetts): William Heinemann Ltd. and Harvard University Press, reprinted edition 1966, p. 85.

[8] Another, more recent, predecessor in that respect is Colin Burrow, who, in the introduction to his edition of the poem, names all the texts as possible sources for Shakespeare’s Lucrece but comments on only some of them. Cp. William Shakespeare, “Lucrece”, in: William Shakespeare, The Oxford Shakespeare – Complete Sonnets and Poems, ed. Colin Burrow. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 45-66.

[9] Cp. T. H. Howard-Hill, “Thomas Middleton”, in: Dictionary of Literary Biography Volume 58: Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists. ed. Fredson Bowers. Detroit, Washington D. C., London: Gale Research Company, 1987, p. 200-201.

[10] Cp. Katherine Duncan-Jones, “Ravished and Revised: The 1616 Lucrece”, in: The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 52, No. 208 (2001), p. 516-523.

[11] Paul Edmondson, “Unpublished introduction to The Rape of Lucrece”, in: Alec Cobbe and Stanley Wells. Shakespeare’s Lovely Boy: A Poet and His Patron. Alec Cobbe: forthcoming. I am especially grateful to Paul Edmondson for permission to use his text and for his never-ending support since September 2004.

[12] Personal correspondence with Paul Edmondson (15th May 2006) and quoted with his permission.

[13] Edmondson, “Unpublished introduction”, forthcoming.

[14] Personal correspondence with Paul Edmondson (15th May 2006).

[15] Cp. Anne Thompson, “Series Editor’s Preface”, in: Coppélia Kahn, Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women. London and New York: Routledge, 1997, p. xiii.

[16] Coppélia Kahn, “Lucrece: The Sexual Politics of Subjectivity”, in: Lynn A. Higgins, Brenda R. Silver (eds.) Rape and Representation, New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, p. 142.

[17] Nazife Bashar, “Rape in England between 1550 and 1700”, in: London Feminist History Group (ed.). The Sexual Dynamics of History. London 1983, p. 28. She closes her sentence with “male historians” because of the purpose of her article, but I refer myself here to the gender of the scholars who have written so far about the three Renaissance texts. I noticed that almost all of them were female. Therefore, in my opinion, Paul Edmondson’s point of view is one of the few noteworthy exception.

[18] Coppélia Kahn, Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women, London and New York: Routledge, 1997, p. 1.

[19] Cp. Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda R. Silver, “Introduction: Rereading Rape”, in: Lynn A. Higgins, Brenda R. Silver (eds.) Rape and Representation, New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, p. 3-4.

[20] Laura G Bromley, “Lucrece’s Re-Creation”, in: Shakespeare Quarterly 34, Summer 1983, No. 2, p. 200 .

[21] There are a few studies, though, on Heywood and Middleton solely, as for example Marilyn L. Johnson’s “Images of Women in the Works of Thomas Heywood” and Laura Bromley’s “The Lost Lucrece: Middleton’s The Ghost of Lucrece”.

[22] Paulina Kewes, “Roman History and Early Stuart Drama: Thomas Heywood’s The Rape of Lucrece”, in: English Literary Renaissance 2002, p. 248.

[23] Cp. Anna Swärdh, Rape and Religion in English Renaissance Literature: A Topical Study of Four Texts by Shakespeare, Drayton, and Middleton. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia 124. Uppsala: Uppsala University Library, 2003.

[24] OED, “rape" n. † 1.

[25] OED, “rape” n. 2.

[26] OED, “rape” n. 3.

[27] both OED, “ravishment” n. 2.

[28] Pope even explained the purpose in a letter to his friend Spence: “The stealing of Miss Belle Fermor’s hair was taken too seriously, and caused an estrangement between the two families, though they had lived so long in great friendship before. A common acquaintance and well-wisher to both, desired me to write a poem to make a jest of it, and laugh them together again. It was with this view that I wrote the Rape of the Lock.”, quoted after: Alexander Pope. The Rape of the Lock. ed. Elizabeth Gurr. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 71.

[29] J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. London: HarperCollins Publishers 1995, p. 828.

[30] For the date, name and the sum of the victims of this massacre cp. chapter “16. “Troubles increase geometrically””, p. 164-174, in: Edwin P. Hoyt, Japan ’s War – The Great Pacific Conflict 1853-1952. London: Arrow Books Limited, 1989.

[31] Jane F. Gardner, Women in Roman Law and Society, London and Sydney: Croom Helm Ltd., 1986, p. 3.

[32] Cp. ibid., p. 118.

[33] Ibid., p. 118.

[34] Cp. Suzanne Dixon, Reading Roman Women: Sources, Genres and Real Life, London: Gerald

Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 2001, p. 50.

[35] Cp. Gardner, Women in Roman Law and Society, p. 119.

[36] Dixon, Reading Roman Women, p. 48.

[37] Cp. Gardner, Women in Roman law, p. 121.

[38] Dixon, Reading Roman Women, p. 47.

[39] Cp. Gardner, Women in Roman law, p. 121.

[40] Baines, “Effacing Rape”, p. 70.

[41] Cp. Bashar, “Rape in England”, p. 30.

[42] Ibid., p. 30.

[43] Cp. Bashar, “Rape in England”, p. 31 and cp. Baines, “Effacing Rape”, p. 70.

[44] Baines, “Effacing Rape”, p. 70.

[45] Ibid., p. 71.

[46] Quoted after: ibid., p. 71. The man who violated the virgin first got the capital sentence, but the others received almost no punishment as the girl’s status after the first sexual act was virtually reduced to that of a prostitute.

[47] Cp. ibid., p. 71.

[48] Bashar, “Rape in England”, p. 31.

[49] “‘Clergy’ meant that the convict who could read a verse from the prayer book was branded on the hand rather than put to death.” Ibid., p. 32.

[50] Cynthia E Garrett, “Sexual Consent and the Art of Love in the Early Modern English Lyric”, in: Studies in English Literature 44 (2004) 1, p. 42.

[51] Ibid., p. 42.

[52] Cp. Bashar, “Rape in England”, p. 36.

[53] Ibid., p. 34.

[54] Quoted after: Baines, “Effacing Rape”, p. 76.

[55] Ibid., p. 82.

[56] Livy, Ab Urbe Condita - Vol. I, trans. B. O. Foster. London and Cambridge (Massachusetts): William Heinemann Ltd. and Harvard University Press, reprinted edition 1967, p. ix.

[57] Cp. Anthony Bowen (ed.), The Story of Lucretia - Selections from Ovid & Livy, Bristol and Oak Park: Bristol Classical Press and Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1987, p. 5.

[58] Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, p. 207.

[59] Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, p. 209.

[60] In the next five chapters about the other antique and medieval texts, I am not going to narrate the myth each time, I just point out the differences respective the things in common in the tales, referring myself to the changed purpose of the authors each time.

[61] Ovid, Fasti, p. xx.

[62] Ibid., p. xx.

[63] Ibid., p. 107.

[64] Ibid., p. 113.

[65] Ovid, Fasti, p. 115.

[66] Ibid., p. 117.

[67] Ibid., p. 119.

[68] Ibid., p. 119.

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The theme of rape in elizabethan and jacobean literary texts
University of Dusseldorf "Heinrich Heine"  (Anglistik IV)
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This study focus on the poems written by W. Shakespeare and T. Middleton and the play by T. Heywood, which all deal with the rape of Lucrece. The analysis considers their literary predecessors from Antiquity and the Middle Ages as well as the contemporary circumstances of the three texts and the outcomes for the writers before the text are analysed in depth.
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Stephanie Schnabel (Author), 2006, The theme of rape in elizabethan and jacobean literary texts, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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