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Background Setting: The time is immediately before the establishment of the Roman republic in 509 B.C. The places are Ardea, 24 miles south of Rome; Collatium, 10 miles east of Rome; and Rome. Date of Publication: On May 9, 1594, the poem was entered in the Hall Book of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, the English government's pre-publication registry. The poem was highly popular with educated readers. Alternate Titles: The poem was listed in the Hall Book under the title of The Ravyshement [Ravishment] of Lucrece but was published with the title Lucrece. The Rape of Lucrece was substituted as a title at a later date. Probable Main Sources (1) The History of Rome, by Livy (full name, Titus Livius), was one of Shakespeare's most important sources for The Rape of Lucrece . Livy (59 B.C-17 A.D) wrote about early Rome–from its founding in 753 B.C. to the age of Caesar Augustus, down to about 9 B.C. Livy's History–told in 142 volumes, of which 35 survive intact and others survive in fragments or in references to his History in works of other writers–is a masterpiece and required reading for all historians. However, Livy was a moralist who wrote history as a reformer. He was also a layman who had little experience in the day-to-day workings of government. When writing, he sometimes accepted undocumented accounts–accounts more properly categorized as legend than as history. Such is his account of the rape of a woman named Lucretia (the Lucrece of Shakespeare's poem). The account is taken as fact by some, fiction by others. Thus, Livy–a rich source of information about early Rome during the age of kings–was not always reliable. (2) Fasti (Calendar) by the Roman poet Ovid (full name, Publius Ovidius Naso) was another important source of information. Shakespeare may have used an English translation of Fasti by Arthur Golding, although it is just as likely that he used an original Latin text. Of course, he may have paged through both texts while writing his poem. Ovid (43 B.C.-18 A.D.) is famous for his love poems, but Fasti was a 12-volume account of the Roman calendar that listed special events and festivals on a given day. "Book II" of Fasti tells the story of the rape of Lucretia, or Lucrece, because of its importance as a significant turning point in Roman history. Used as evidence of the corruption of the reigning King of Rome (his son was the rapist), the incident led to the overthrow of the king and the establishment of the Roman republic.
Type of Poem, Rhyme Scheme, and Meter Type of Poem and Length: Narrative poem resembling a revenge tragedy; 1,855 lines
Rhyme Scheme and Meter: The poem is in rhyme royal (or rime royal) with each stanza having seven lines in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is ababbcc–that is, Line 1 rhymes with Line 3, Line 2 rhymes with Lines 4 and 5, and Line 6 rhymes with Line 7. Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, pioneered this rhyme scheme in England in his works Troilus and Criseyde and The Parlement of Foules. Rhyme royal was going out of fashion when Shakespeare wrote Lucrece, although later poets–including John Milton in the 17th Century and John Masefield in the 20th–revived it. Stanza 8 of the poem aptly displays rhyme royal and iambic pentameter: . ..............A...From the besieged Ardea all in post,
..............B...Borne by the trustless wings of false desire, ..............A...Lust-breathed Tarquin leaves the Roman host, ..............B...And to Collatium bears the lightless fire ..............B...Which, in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire ..............C...And girdle with embracing flames the waist ..............C...Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece the chaste. Imagery The language and imagery in the poem are elegant and accomplished, demonstrating great technical skill. Shakespeare was attempting to establish his reputation when he wrote the poem. If there is a weakness, it is that Lucrece sometimes resembles an automaton expressing emotions rather than feeling them. Dedication Shakespeare dedicated The Rape of Lucrece to Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton. Wriothesley (1573-1624) was a patron of Shakespeare and other writers of the time. Although a favorite at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, his association with the headstrong Robert Devereux, the Second Earl of Essex–another fixture at court–led him to take part in Devereux’s 1601 rebellion against the queen. Wriothesley was sentenced to life imprisonment. Summary of the Poem In the mid-Sixth Century, B.C., Lucius Tarquinius murders his father-in-law to become King of Rome. He is an arrogant, despotic ruler, fully deserving his epithet, Tarquin the Proud, or Tarquinius Superbus. Because he covets the town of Ardea, 24 miles south of Rome, he orders troops there to lay siege. .......While encamped at Ardea, officers gather after supper at the tent of the king’s son, Tarquin, to socialize and tell stories. By and by, they begin extolling the virtues of their wives. One officer, Collatine, boasts that his wife, Lucrece, is by far the most beautiful and virtuous woman of all. His accounting of her excellent qualities arouses lust in the heart of young Tarquin; he must see this wonder for himself. So it is that he steals away to Collatine's home in Collatium, 10 miles east of Rome, where Lucrece manages the household in the absence of her husband. .......When he presents himself at her door as a comrade of her husband, she receives him hospitably. Her beauty and innocent charm astound him. Collatine’s praise of her, generous as it was, was not generous enough. He resolves to have her. Lucrece believes him honorable and upright, a fine and noble gentleman like her husband; she is trusting to a fault. The narrator draws back the curtain of her mind: ..............This earthly saint, adored by this devil, ..............Little suspecteth the false worshipper; ..............For unstain'd thoughts do seldom dream on evil. (85-87) The clever Tarquin ingratiates himself with guileless Lucrece, praising her husband’s soldierly valor and “manly chivalry” (109).He also invents excuses for his visit, deciding to restrain his libido until nightfall. After supper, they while away the evening in conversation. When they retire to separate chambers, the omniscient narrator interprets Tarquin’s motives and, in doing so, preaches a lesson: ..............Those that much covet are with gain so fond, ..............For what they have not, that which they possess ..............They scatter and unloose it from their bond, ..............And so, by hoping more, they have but less;
..............Or, gaining more, the profit of excess ..............Is but to surfeit, and such griefs sustain, ..............That they prove bankrupt in this poor-rich gain. (134-140) .......When deepest night silences all living things, save for the howling wolf and the screeching owl, Tarquin steals forth to plunder his treasure. He lifts a latch. He knees open the door. Before him, Lucrece lies fast asleep. “Into the chamber wickedly he stalks, / And gazeth on her yet unstained bed" (365-366). Under his groping hands, Lucrece awakens and "Wrapp'd and confounded in a thousand fears, / Like to a new-kill'd bird she trembling lies" (456-457). She must submit to him willingly, he tells her, or he will take her by force. 'Lucrece,' quoth he,'this night I must enjoy thee: / If thou deny, then force must work my way" (512-513). Lucrece begs him, by all that is right and good, to leave her alone. ..............She conjures him by high almighty Jove, ..............By knighthood, gentry, and sweet friendship's oath, ..............By her untimely tears, her husband's love, ..............By holy human law, and common troth, ..............By heaven and earth, and all the power of both, ..............That to his borrow'd bed he make retire, ..............And stoop to honour, not to foul desire. (568-574) .......Tarquin deafens his ears to her pleadings–and takes her. “The wolf hath seized his prey, the poor lamb cries” (677). Then he leaves her, a wretched, heartbroken woman, polluted to the deepest fathom of her soul. “She hath lost a dearer thing than life” (687). With her nails, she tears her flesh. She says: .............."O Night, thou furnace of foul-reeking smoke, ..............Let not the jealous Day behold that face ..............Which underneath thy black all-hiding cloak ..............Immodestly lies martyr'd with disgrace!" (792-802) In handwritten messages, she summons Collatine from Ardea and her father, Lucretius, from Rome. While awaiting their arrival, she reflects on a painting of the Trojan War and recalls the suffering that resulted in Troy from the event that caused it: the abduction of the beautiful Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Greece, by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy. .............."Here friend by friend in bloody channel lies, ..............And friend to friend gives unadvised wounds, ..............And one man's lust these many lives confounds: ..............Had doting Priam cheque'd his son's desire, ..............Troy had been bright with fame and not with fire." (1487-1491) Lucrece compares Tarquin with Paris, and herself with Priam. .............."To me came Tarquin armed; so beguiled ..............With outward honesty, but yet defiled ..............With inward vice: as Priam him did cherish, ..............So did I Tarquin; so my Troy did perish." (1544-1547) .......After her husband and her father arrive with friends, Lucrece–now dressed in mournful black–tells them the shocking news, that she has been raped. "Mine enemy was strong, my poor self weak, / And far the weaker with so strong a fear" (1646-1647). Then, before naming the rapist, she asks them to avenge the terrible crime:
..............“But ere I name him, you fair lords,” quoth she, ..............Speaking to those that came with Collatine, ..............“Shall plight your honourable faiths to me, ..............With swift pursuit to venge this wrong of mine; ..............For 'tis a meritorious fair design ..............To chase injustice with revengeful arms: ..............Knights, by their oaths, should right poor ladies' harms.” (1688-1694) But when she names Tarquin, she plunges a knife into her own breast. Astonishment paralyzes Collatine. But her father throws himself in grief upon her, and Brutus withdraws the knife, releasing small rivers of blood. Brokenhearted Lucretius cries out to her, “That life was mine which thou hast here deprived” (1752). Collatine falls on his wife and in her blood “bathes the pale fear in his face” (1775) until “manly shame bids him possess his breath and live to be revenged on her death.” Brutus holds out the bloody weapon, saying, “By this bloody knife we will revenge the death of this true wife” (1840-41). His compatriots fall to their knees and swear they will. .......They then bear the body of Lucrece through the streets of Rome and inform the people of Tarquin’s “foul offence” (1852). At the same time, they denounce the tyrannical rule of Lucius Tarquinius. The entire Tarquin family is rooted out, deposed, and banished. And Rome, in 509 B.C., establishes a republic ruled by representatives of the people. There will be no more Tarquins, no more kings.
VENUS AND ADONIS Venus and Adonis is a poem by William Shakespeare, written in 1592-93, with a plot based on passages from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a complex, kaleidoscopic work, using constantly shifting tone and perspective to present contrasting views of the nature of love. Venus and Adonis was entered into the Stationers' Register on April 18, 1593; the poem appeared later that year in a quarto edition, published and printed by Richard Field, a Stratfordupon-Avon man and a close contemporary of Shakespeare. Field released a second quarto in 1594, then transferred his copyright to John Harrison ("the Elder"), the stationer who published the first edition of The Rape of Lucrece, also in 1594. Subsequent editions of Venus and Adonis were in octavo format rather than quarto; Harrison issued the third edition (O1) probably in 1595, and the fourth (O2) in 1596 (both of Harrison's editions were printed by Field). The poem's copyright then passed to William Leake, who published two editions (O3, O4) in 1599 alone, with perhaps four (O5, O6, O7, and O8) in 1602. The copyright passed to William Barrett in 1617; Barrett issued O9 that same year. Five more editions appeared by 1640 — making the poem, with 16 editions in 47 years, one of the great popular successes of its era. Historical background In 1593, an outbreak of the plague in London caused the city authorities to close all the public playhouses. Shakespeare had by this time written perhaps the first 5 or 6 of his plays, and was building a reputation. He set about what he would publish as "the first heire [sic] of my invention" — that is, the first legitimate offspring from his "muse". He dedicated the work to Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. In 1594 Shakespeare dedicated Lucrece to Southampton as the 'graver labour' promised in his dedication to Venus and Adonis. Southampton was in financial difficulties, but it is still possible that this patron was extravagant enough to reward these irresistible overtures with a substantial amount of money. Shakespeare from somewhere acquired enough capital to become a onetwelfth sharer in his theatre company's profits from performance. It was thereafter apparently more lucrative for him to write plays than long poems. Literary background Venus and Adonis comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 10. Ovid told of how Venus took the beautiful Adonis as her first mortal lover. They were long-time companions, with the goddess hunting alongside her lover. She warns him of the tale of Atalanta and Hippomenes to dissuade him from hunting dangerous animals, he disregards the warning, and is killed by a boar. Shakespeare developed this basic narrative into a poem of 1194 lines. His chief innovation was to make Adonis refuse Venus's offer of herself. It has been argued (by Erwin Panofsky) that Shakespeare might have seen a copy of Titian's 'Venus and Adonis', a painting that could be taken to show Adonis refusing to join Venus in embraces. But Shakespeare's plays already showed a liking for activist heroines, forced to woo and pursue an evasive male (see The Two Gentlemen of Verona). The other innovation was a kind of observance of the 'Aristotelian' unities: the action takes place in one location, lasts from morning till morning, and focuses on the two main characters. Plot
Venus enters the poem 'sick-thoughted' with love, and hoists Adonis from the saddle of his horse. She then plies him with kisses, and arguments, but nothing she does or says can rouse him to sexual desire. This he repudiates. By the mid-point of the poem, Adonis has announced his intention to go boar hunting the next morning. Venus tries to dissuade him, and get him to hunt more timid prey. This he ignores, and breaks away from her. She spends the rest of the night in lamentation, at dawn, she hears the sound of the hunt. Full of apprehension, she runs towards the noise, knowing that, as the sound comes from just one place, the hunters are confronting an animal that isn't running away. She comes upon the body of Adonis, fatally gored by the boar's tusks. In her horror and sorrow, the Goddess of Love pronounces a curse upon love: that it will always end badly, and those who love best (like her) will know most sorrow. This curse provides an aetiology, a myth of causation, explaining why love is inseparable from pain (this is characteristic of the form). Shakespeare's poem is seen as an 'epyllion', a minor epic of sexual love. Thomas Lodge had inaugurated the genre in his 'Glaucus and Scilla' (1589). The main rival was Marlowe's unfinished Hero and Leander. That poem, and Shakespeare's, went on being reprinted through the first half of the 17th century. Problems about who owned the text probably prevented its publication in the 1623 Folio of Shakespeare's works. Venus and Adonis is written in an incessantly clever manner. Venus's words to Adonis from line 229 onwards: "Fondling," she saith, "since I have hemm'd thee here Within the circuit of this ivory pale, I'll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer; Feed where thou wilt, on mountain or in dale: Graze on my lips; and if those hills be dry, Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie." were endlessly alluded to in the period. They are typical of the poem, in making the reader have the indecent thoughts, while remaining almost innocent: 'those hills' all too easily cease to mean her swelling lips, and turn into her breasts, so that the reader's imagination runs down her body, and the closing lines start to hint at cunnilingus. Throughout the poem, Shakespeare denies to his reader the sexual consummation Adonis denies to Venus. The poem had a contemporary reputation as erotica, but functions more as a witty frustration of pornographic reading. At line 505, Shakespeare rather daringly alludes to the perils of 1593. Venus coerces a kiss from Adonis, and to celebrate its sweetness, says of Adonis' lips: "Long may they kiss each other, for this cure! O, never let their crimson liveries wear! And as they last, their verdure still endure, To drive infection from the dangerous year! That the star-gazers, having writ on death, May say, the plague is banish'd by thy breath." In these lines, Adonis's sweet breath acts like the kind of herbal nosegays people used to carry around, to try to keep themselves from inhaling the miasma which they thought spread the plague. It is possible that contemporaries would have sensed, in reading the lines about Adonis's beautiful body despoiled by the boar, which has ripped open his groin, that the end of the poem invited them to consider the plague victims. The buboes of bubonic plague formed in the neck and the groin, and the victim died when they burst, agonisingly: love cannot save even the most beautiful from an ugly death. Adaptations • • Doom metal band My Dying Bride used extracts of the poem in the song For My Fallen Angel, on their 1996 album, Like Gods of the Sun. The Lone Star Ensemble, a theatre company, has presented a fully staged performance of the poem.
The original poem is read by several British actors (among them David Burke, Eve Best and Benjamin Soames) on a Naxos audiobook. The audiobook also includes The Rape of Lucrece. Richard Burton once recorded a spoken word album of the poem for Caedmon Records. Melbourne based company Malthouse Theatre collaborated with Sydney's Bell Shakespeare to produce a musical adaption of the work. Directed by Marion Potts, with music by Andree Greenwell, the work was first performed in the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne in 2008 and again in Sydney Theatre Company's Wharf 2 in February 2009. Most recently the show has traveled to Auckland, New Zealand and been performed in The Bruce Mason Centre as part of the 2009 Auckland Festival.
This unusual version Venus & Adonis starred Melissa Madden-Gray and Susan Prior, both playing the character of Venus. The Adonis character is absent from the stage and is 'played' by the audience. Throughout the performance Venus (Madden-Gray and Prior) attempt to seduce the audience. Venus & Adonis received good reviews in all of its three seasons.
SONNET 28 How can I then return in happy plight, That am debarre’d the benefit of rest? This sonnet paints a man (or the poet himself) lamenting on how he will find happiness despite of all the oppression and pain which his enemies (or the people who are not in favor of him) caused. Instead of finding solitude and rest in his nights, he lies awake wrapped in the arms of his grief, shedding tears as the voices in his mind shout for rest, asking why despite of all his labors there are still people who cannot appreciate his effort. it tells us that not even the night and the day can free us from our pain; and despite all the “crabs” who are pulling us down, temptations hindering our journey, we still must struggle, learn how to survive and exist, no longer for them but for our Creator. SONNET 91 Some glory in their birth, some in their skill, Some in their wealth, some in their body’s force
People give too much weight or importance on their physical belongings, things which do not really matter, materials which one cannot bring with him when his time on Earth has come to an end. We forget that love is better than all of these. The love of a woman, the love of a Being humans address as God, is enough to make one man proud and wealthy though he does not live a wealthy life for he knows that without this love, he is nothing but an empty shell.
SONNET 14 Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck; And yet methinks I have astronomy, The poet tells us that he bases his judgment not on the stars, though he thinks he knows astronomy, but on his daily observations of life, the reality that is happening around him. This has something to do with the Elizabethan worldview; people are guided by the belief that things happening in the human sphere also happen in the cosmic sphere and they are so fascinated and engrossed with the mysteries of astronomy.
SONNET 23 As an unperfect actor on the stage Who with his fear is put besides his part, The poet is a man who is afraid to tell his affection towards his ladylove so instead of saying it to her, loud and clear, he opted to write it, put it in words, and pour his heart in books. This might also tell us that there are persons who are born writers, not actors or speakers, whose
talents are seen in his/her writing. They find freedom, happiness, and peace with their pen and paper as the words flow freely from their hearts.
SONNET 62 Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye And all my soul and all my every part; Narcissism is one flaw committed by most humans, a sickness which one has to battle if he/she wants to be rid of it. It is in every human’s heart, perhaps, some are not just aware of it while others are “enjoying” it. We enjoy hearing the wonderful things about us, we tend to embrace and love only ourselves that in so doing, we separate ourselves from the rest of humanity.
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