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THE RAPE OF LUCRECE.
Lucrece was entered on the Stationers' Register in 1594 as follows: "9 maij: Master harrison Senior: Entred for his copie vnder th[e h]and of master Senior Cawood, Warden, a booke entituled the Ravyshement of Lucrece. vj. C."
The poem was printed in the same year, with this title: "LVCRECE. | LONDON. | Printed by Richard Field, for John Harrison, and are to be sold at the signe of the White Grey-hound in Paules Churh-yard. 1594 | . Dr. Furnivall remarks-Leopold Shakspere, Introduction, p. xxxv.-that "this first edition was probably seen through the press by Shakspere himself." Apparently, however, copies of the edition differ in some important points of reading; see Cambridge Shakespeare, vol. ix. p. xiv. Lucrece was reprinted in 1598 in octavo, and the Cambridge editors mention four other important editions, in 1600, 1607, 1616, and 1624. The edition of 1616 purported to be "newly revised;" but the words were evidently a publisher's trick to attract purchasers. It is clear, I think, from the comparatively limited number of impressions through which Lucrece passed, that the poem was never so popular as its forerunner, Venus and Adonis. Like the earlier book, Lucrece is dedicated to the Earl of Southampton; and we can scarcely be wrong in assuming it to be the "graver labour" of which the poet had previously spoken. The story of Lucrece had been told by various writers; among classical authors, by Livy in the first book of his history, chapters 57 and 58, and by Ovid in the second book of the Fasti; in English, by Chaucer-Legende of Good Women; by Lydgate-Falles of Princes, book iii.; and in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, 1567.
Ballad-writers, too, had dealt with the subject. In Arber's Transcript of the Stationers' Register are two interesting entries. The first, under date of the year 1568, mentions "a ballett,
the grevious complaynt of Lucrece;" the second notes that 4d. had been received from "James Robertes, for his lycense for the pryntinge of a ballett entituled The Death of Lucryssia." See Arber's Transcript, vol. i. pp. 379 and 416. Now with some of this literature Shakespeare must have been acquainted: the only question is, on which of the authors above mentioned did he draw most considerably? Myself, after reading Professor Baynes' elaborate treatment of the subject, I cannot doubt but that Ovid's Fasti was the source to which Shakespeare owed most. Parallelisms in literature, like facts and figures in ordinary life, are desperately misleading and unsatisfactory things: to this critic they mean so much; to that, nothing. Hence it is scarcely ever possible to give direct and positive proof that one author has borrowed from another. I forbear, therefore, to make any dogmatic statements on the matter: I will merely remark that a comparison of the two poems leads me to think, with Professor Baynes, that the Elizabethan poet had read—and read closely-the work of his classical forerunner. To grant this is not, of course, to detract in any way from the splendid merits of the poem.
A word as to the metre. "The versification," says Professor Dowden, "is freer and bolder; in the Venus and Adonis the stanza was one of six lines, consisting of a rhymed quatrain, followed by a couplet; here a fifth line is introduced between the quatrain and couplet, rhyming with lines two and four. This structure tends to encourage more variety in the arrangement of pauses, and may, perhaps, in some degree, explain the fact that runon lines are much more frequent in the Lucrece than in the Venus and Adonis. The proportion of the run-on lines in the Lucrece is 1 in 10'81, in Venus and Adonis 1 in 25:40." See Furnivall's Introduction to the Leopold Shakspere, p. xxxiii.
RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLY,
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness.
Your lordship's in all duty,
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. Which done, with one consent they all vowed to root out the whole hated family of the Tarquins; and bearing the dead body to Rome, Brutus acquainted the people with the doer and manner of the vile deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the king: wherewith the people were so moved, that with one consent and a general acclamation the Tarquins were all exiled, and the state government changed from kings to consuls.