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THE RAPE OF LUCRECE

TO THE

RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLEY,

EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON AND BARON OF TITCHFIELD.

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,

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

THE ARGUMENT.

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 owI 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 VOL. X 305

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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 enflamed 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.

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From the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathed Tarquin leaves the Roman host,
And to Collatium bears the lightless fire
Which, in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire

And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece the chaste.

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Haply that name of chaste' unhappily set
This bateless edge on his keen appetite;
When Collatine unwisely did not let

10. let, forbear.

To praise the clear unmatched red and white
Which triumph'd in that sky of his delight,

Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
With pure aspects did him peculiar duties.

For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
Unlock'd the treasure of his happy state;
What priceless wealth the heavens had him lent
In the possession of his beauteous mate;
Reckoning his fortune at such high-proud rate,

That kings might be espoused to more fame,
But king nor peer to such a peerless dame.

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O happiness enjoy'd but of a few !
And, if possess'd, as soon decay'd and done
As is the morning's silver-melting dew
Against the golden splendour of the sun!
An expired date, cancell'd ere well begun :

Honour and beauty, in the owner's arms,
Are weakly fortress'd from a world of harms.

30

Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
The eyes of men without an orator;
What needeth then apologies be made,
To set forth that which is so singular ?
Or why is Collatine the publisher

Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish ears, because it is his own?

Perchance his boast of Lucrece' sovereignty
Suggested this proud issue of a king ;
For by our ears our hearts oft tainted be:
Perchance that envy of so rich a thing,
Braving compare, disdainfully did sting

37. Suggested, tempted.

His high-pitch'd thoughts, that meaner men

should vaunt That golden hap which their superiors want.

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But some untimely thought did instigate
His all-too-timeless speed, if none of those :
His honour, his affairs, his friends, his state,
Neglected all, with swift intent he goes
To quench the coal which in his liver glows.

O rash false heat, wrapp'd in repentant cold,

Thy hasty spring still blasts, and ne'er grows old !
When at Collatium this false lord arrived,
Well was he welcomed by the Roman dame,
Within whose face beauty and virtue strived
Which of them both should underprop her fame :
When virtue bragg'd, beauty would blush for shame;

When beauty boasted blushes, in despite
Virtue would stain that o'er with silver white.

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60

But beauty, in that white intituled,
From Venus' doves doth challenge that fair field :
Then virtue claims from beauty beauty's red,
Which virtue gave the golden age to gild
Their silver cheeks, and call'd it then their shield;

Teaching them thus to use it in the fight,
When shame assail'd, the red should fence the

white.

:

This heraldry in Lucrece' face was seen,
Argued by beauty's red and virtue's white:
Of either's colour was the other queen,
Proving from world's minority their right:
Yet their ambition makes them still to fight;

The sovereignty of either being so great,
That oft they interchange each other's seat.
57. intituled in, becoming endowed with. L.

70

Their silent war of lilies and of roses,
Which Tarquin view'd in her fair face's field,
In their pure ranks his traitor eye encloses;
Where, lest between them both it should be kill'd,
The coward captive vanquished doth yield

To those two armies that would let him go,
Rather than triumph in so false a foe.

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Now thinks he that her husband's shallow tongue,
The niggard prodigal that praised her so,
In that high task hath done her beauty wrong,
Which far exceeds his barren skill to show:
Therefore that praise which Collatine doth owe

Enchanted Tarquin answers with surmise,

In silent wonder of still-gazing eyes.
This earthly saint, adored by this devil,
Little suspecteth the false worshipper;
For unstain'd thoughts do seldom dream on evil ;
Birds never limed no secret bushes fear :
So guiltless she securely gives good cheer

And reverend welcome to her princely guest,

Whose inward ill no outward harm express'd :
For that he colour'd with his high estate,
Hiding base sin in plaits of majesty ;
That nothing in him seem'd inordinate,
Save sometime too much wonder of his eye,
Which, having all, all could not satisfy;

But, poorly rich, so wanteth in his store,

That, cloy'd with much, he pineth still for more. But she, that never coped with stranger eyes, Could pick no meaning from their parling looks, Nor read the subtle-shining secrecies 89. securely, carelessly.

93. plaits, folds. 100. parling, speaking.

100

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