Tarquin Dispossessed: Expropriation and Consent in <i>The Rape of Lucrece</i>

Belsey Catherine

in Shakespeare in Theory and Practice

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633012
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652235 | DOI:
Tarquin Dispossessed: Expropriation and Consent in The Rape of Lucrece

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This chapter argues that Lucrece does the best she can — and that Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece attends closely to the complex implications of rape, and to the drawbacks of a sexual and state politics which ignores consent. While the poem focuses on the personal significance of their respective predicaments for Tarquin and Lucrece, the prose specifies the implications of the rape for Rome. In Shakespeare's account Tarquin uses force instead, gagging Lucrece with her own nightgown to smother her outcry. By her death, Lucrece dissolves her shame, erases the threat of bastardy to Collatine's lineage, and motivates political action. Lucrece's story demonstrates that the proper does not stay in place: the trace of the other destabilises the self-same. Perhaps the cross-couple, trope of deconstruction and thus of the instability of meaning, can be seen as the figure of cultural and political change.

Keywords: Lucrece; Shakespeare; The Rape of Lucrece; Tarquin; sexual; state politics; Rome; Collatine

Chapter.  8328 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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