Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Rape of Lucrece Lines 92-539


here’s what you missed:
Tarquin has arrived at Lucrece’s, and seems to be a good guy. Lucrece is too innocent to pick up on his true intentions. he pretends like he's going to bed, and instead stays up contemplating what to do. Tarquin struggles a lot with this choice. he recognizes that what he is doing is greedy, and to trade his honor for gratification is an ugly thing. he is both scared of the reprecussions of his act and partially hateful of himself. he tries to get rid of his bad thoughts and focus on honor. he knows he would scar his family tree forever for a mere few moments of pleasure. he wishes he weren't such good friends with her husband. if Tarquin hated him, it would be so much easier to do whatever he wants.
his mind wanders, and he begins thinking about Lucrece. his resolve for honor wanes. he decides he doesn't want to be afraid of or deny his passions. lust takes over and he goes to her. nothing can stop him, not even the creaking doors threatening to announce his approach or the wind blowing out his torch.
by the time he finds Lucrece, he is in total denial. he has justified his actions in his mind. she lies there peacefully, and he is blinded by her beauty. his desire for the forbidden fully takes over. he touches her boobs? yeah, i'm pretty sure that's what happens. she wakes up and is, of course, terrified. she doesn't understand why this is happening. he is so twisted that he tells her it's her fault for being so beautiful and enticing to him. he tells her he understands the consequences and thinks it's worth it.
as if this isn't bad enough, Tarquin tells Lucrece that if she struggles with him, he will punish her. he will kill her and a servant and put the servant in her arms. when asked, he will tell her husband that he caught her cheating and that's why they were killed. her husband and children will be disgraced forever. if she succumbs to him, however, everything will be fine. crazy, right?

i am enjoying this. thank GOD. i sat alone in the grad office at school today and read the dang thing aloud. and it made sense. i went slowly, re-reading when i had to. i took the extra time and it paid off. this is SO different from Venus and Adonis. this one is hitting on some deep issues. to me, it felt like V & A was really surface level. this piece is so much more mature than V & A. dig it.

i love how Shakespeare explores the struggle Tarquin goes through before he steals into Lucrece’s room. it's not just as easy as going in to get some. a lot is going on in this guy's head. i love when Shakespeare says he "is madly tossed bwteen desire and dread." although the introduction says that this poem isn't about character, he spends almost a couple hundred lines developing what's going on in Tarquin's mind. if it's not about character, i don't know what it is about. i am interested to see if Lucrece gets the same development. let's hope.

quote of the day:
'the aim of all is but to nurse the life
with honor, wealth, and ease in waning age;
and in this aim there is such thwarting strife
that one for all or all for one we gage:
as life for honor in fell battle's rage,
      honor for wealth; and oft that wealth doth cost
      the death of all, and all together lost.

so that in venturing ill we leave to be
the thing we are for that which we expect;
and this ambitious foul infirmity,
in having much, torments us with defect
of what we have. so then we do neglect
     the thing we have, and, all for want of wit,
     make something nothing by augmenting it.'
       -lines 141-154

for tomorrow: lines540-1001

-rebecca may


  1. Congratulations on your break-through in the grad office! I need to draw inspiration from your successes. I've read your quote of the day multiple times, and I still have not completely grasped it.

    The gist I get is that, in our attempts to achieve excess in a particular area, we tend to sacrifice some of our goals for a balanced life. (Examples: A soldier dies to achieve glory. Someone sells out personal ethics or reputation for the sake of money.) And, even though we may have a lot, we obsess over the things we lack, thereby neglecting our blessings. (I was just talking about how I do this too much, yesterday.)

    Although I have not read the poem, I like the idea of the rapist searching his soul and pondering the act before committing it. However, despite all of Tarquin's deliberation about whether he will carry out the plan, does he ever discuss the reasons he wants to violate Lucrece? Is it just a given that a man naturally feels compelled to force himself on a beautiful woman? Does it never occur to him to fantasize about a consensual encounter, or to attempt to woo her away from her husband by acts that may give her pleasure, rather than terror and pain? Of course, in the context of the period, that might have been as much of a death sentence for her as what happened. I guess she was just doomed once her good looks and virtues attracted his attention.

    Another thought: All of this consideration about a proposed course of action reminds me of the "Is this a dagger I see before me..." soliloquy in MACBETH, as well as much of HAMLET and OTHELLO. I wonder how many other works of Shakespeare we could name that highlight the practice.

  2. Jackie Kennedy Onassis once commented about sex, "Women need to have a reason. Men need to have a place." Just saying.

  3. Another random thought...Lawrence Olivier named his son Tarquin.

  4. The inner struggle that Tarquin goes through is eloquent and almost noble. And then he becomes human. I think Shakespeaare liked to dabble in our emotions--causing us to feel empathy with the bad guy. In a production of Merchant of Venice that I saw at The Globe, I found the Shylock character to be almost sympathetic at first. Of course, his corruption and greed win out in the end, but as he is berated and befouled, you felt his inner pain. It is the only production of Merchant I've seen like that, so it must be actor induced in that case. (Oddly enough, the critics panned this actor's portrayal as too gruff).

    I like how many of the characters are haunted by their own misdeeds--Lady Macbeth, Macbeth himself, Richard III, so many of them have deep seated regret. That makes them so much more well rounded and intimate with the viewers.