The Rape of Lucrece

( by William Shakespeare, 1594
an excerpt from The Rape of Lucrece )

‘The Rape of Lucretia’ by Titian ( 1485-1576 )

…Imagine her as one in dead of night
From forth dull sleep by dreadful fancy waking,
That thinks she hath beheld some ghastly sprite,
Whose grim aspect sets every joint a-shaking;
What terror ’tis! but she, in worser taking,
From sleep disturbed, heedfully doth view
The sight which makes supposed terror true.

Wrapped and confounded in a thousand fears,
Like to a new-killed bird she trembling lies;
She dares not look; yet, winking, there appears
Quick-shifting antics, ugly in her eyes.
“Such shadows are the weak brain’s forgeries,
Who, angry that the eyes fly from their lights,
In darkness daunts them with more dreadful sights.

His hand that yet remains upon her breast-
Rude ram, to batter such an ivory wall!-
May feel her heart, poor citizen, distressed,
Wounding itself to death, rise up and fall,
Beating her bulk, that his hand shakes withal.
This moves in him more rage and lesser pity,
To make the breach and enter this sweet city.

First like a trumpet doth his tongue begin
To sound a parley to his heartless foe,
Who o’er the white sheet peers her whiter chin,
The reason of this rash alarm to know,
Which he by dumb demeanour seeks to show;
But she with vehement prayers urgeth still
Under what colour he commits this ill.

Thus he replies: ‘The colour in thy face,
That even for anger makes the lily pale
And the red rose blush at her own disgrace,
Shall plead for me and tell my loving tale.
Under that colour am I come to scale
Thy never-conquered fort. The fault is thine,
For those thine eyes betray thee unto mine.

‘Thus I forestall thee, if thou mean to chide:
Thy beauty hath ensnared thee to this night,
Where thou with patience must my will abide,
My will that marks thee for my earth’s delight,
Which I to conquer sought with all my might;
But as reproof and reason beat it dead,
By thy bright beauty was it newly bred.

‘I see what crosses my attempt will bring;
I know what thorns the growing rose defends;
I think the honey guarded with a sting;
All this beforehand counsel comprehends.
But will is deaf and hears no heedful friends;
Only he hath an eye to gaze on beauty,
And dotes on what he looks, ‘gainst law or duty.

‘I have debated, even in my soul,
What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed;
But nothing can affection’s course control,
Or stop the headlong fury of his speed.
I know repentant tears ensue the deed,
Reproach, disdain and deadly enmity;
Yet strive I to embrace mine infamy.’

This said, he shakes aloft his Roman blade,
Which, like a falcon tow’ring in the skies,
Coucheth the fowl below with his wings’ shade,
Whose crooked beak threats if he mount he dies.
So under his insulting falchion lies
Harmless Lucretia, marking what he tells
With trembling fear, as fowl hear falcons’ bells.
‘Lucrece,’ quoth he, ‘this night I must enjoy thee.
If thou deny, then force must work my way,
For in thy bed I purpose to destroy thee;
That done, some worthless slave of thine I’ll slay,
To kill thine honour with thy life’s decay;
And in thy dead arms do I mean to place him,
Swearing I slew him, seeing thee embrace him…

* * *


Lucius Tarquinius, for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus, after he had caused his own father-in-law Servius Tullius to be
cruelly murdered, and, contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people’s suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom, went accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea. During which siege the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king’s son, in their discourses after supper every one commended the virtues of his own wife; among whom Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humour they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife, though it were late in the night, spinning amongst her maids: the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports. Whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius being inflamed with Lucrece’ beauty, yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest back to the camp; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew himself, and was, according to his estate, royally entertained and lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night he treacherously stealeth into her chamber, violently ravished her, and early in the morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily dispatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, another to the camp for Collatine. They came, the one accompanied with Junius Brutus, the other with Publius Valerius; and finding Lucrece attired in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor and whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself.

* * *

On December 13, 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army stormed the Chinese city of Nanking, and during the following six weeks, 300,000 people were killed and over 20,000 women were raped. ( from Nanking Massacre )


Rape victims. Nanking.

* * *

Sexual violence targeting women and girls has been used in all recent conflicts, including in the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, India (Kashmir), Rwanda, Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola, Sudan, East Timor, Liberia, Algeria, the Russian Federation (Chechnya), and northern Uganda. ( Human Rights Watch )

 * * *

The Voroshilov Shooter (Voroshilovsky Strelok, 1999 ) – a revenge drama with a very typical post-Soviet era storyline. A bunch of vagabonds lured an innocent teenage girl to their apartment, offered her a drink, intimidated then gang raped her. Local cops are incapable to undertake an adequate action against the scoundrels – prevented by the superior chief of the local police (militia) which is the dad of one of the scumbags. The case is closed. The girl’s grand-dad, tired of endless circumlocution decides to take revenge on his own.

* * *

– Rape, sometimes also called sexual assault, can happen to both men and women of any age.

– Rape is often more about power, not sex.

– One out of three women worldwide has experienced rape or sexual assault.

– 84% of women did not report their rapes to police. (From The National Women’s Study (Kilpatrick, Edmunds, and Seymour, 1992).

– In a recent survey in Ireland of 3000 randomly selected adults 3% of the men reported having been raped, while 28% said they had been sexually assaulted or abused. (from “What men don’t talk about” by Maggie Hamilton).

– Ratio of victims by gender: female 1.5 : male 0.2 (from “The experience of sexual assault: Findings from a statewide victim needs assessment”. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20 (6): 767-776)

– Rape victims are 13 times more likely to contemplate suicide than non-victims and 1 in 8 will actually attempt suicide. ( )

– Conservative figures estimate that one in six inmates experiences rape in prison ( )

4 thoughts on “The Rape of Lucrece

  1. the atrocities that are caused against women, children during wars and other invasions will make you sick.

  2. […] The Rape of Lucrece […]

  3. […] highlighting the crimes committed by bad men against women, this poem also features a good man as well as provides a very good description of a bad […]

  4. […] The Rape of Lucrece […]

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