I hesitated to read The Rape of Lucrece, but found it interesting and insightful. It did not focus on the act itself, but more on:
1) The mental and emotional impact on the aggressor–Tarquin, a son of the king–anticipating and preparing for the act, even as he recognizes futilely the personal disaster that will follow–not foreseeing however the political impact his act would have in creating the opening for Brutus to found the Roman Republic.
2) The grief and tragedy and dilemmas the act creates for virtuous Lucrece.
3) The sorrow the rape and Lucrece’s suicide engender in both her husband and her father.
I particularly liked Shakespeare’s ekfphrais, in his description of a painting of the fall of Troy (likening the violation of Lucrece to the betrayal and fall of Troy).
Quotes I liked from the poem:
Unstain’d thoughts do seldom dream on evil…
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.
The aim of all is but to nurse the life
With honour, wealth, and ease, in waning age;
And in this aim there is such thwarting strife,
That one for all, or all for one we gage;
As life for honour in fell battle’s rage;
Honour for wealth; and oft that wealth doth cost
The death of all, and all together lost.
So that in venturing ill we leave to be
The things we are for that which we expect;
And this ambitious foul infirmity,
In having much, torments us with defect
Of that we have: so then we do neglect
The thing we have; and, all for want of wit,
Make something nothing by augmenting it.
Such hazard now must doting Tarquin make,
Pawning his honour to obtain his lust;
And for himself himself he must forsake:
Then where is truth, if there be no self-trust?
When shall he think to find a stranger just,
When he himself himself confounds, betrays
To slanderous tongues and wretched hateful days? …
“Die, unhallow’d thoughts, before you blot
With your uncleanness that which is divine…”
“What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute’s mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
Or what fond beggar, but to touch the crown,
Would with the sceptre straight be strucken down?” …
She hath lost a dearer thing than life,
And he hath won what he would lose again:
This forced league doth force a further strife;
This momentary joy breeds months of pain;
This hot desire converts to cold disdain:
Pure Chastity is rifled of her store,
And Lust, the thief, far poorer than before. …
The sweets we wish for turn to loathed sours
Even in the moment that we call them ours. …
For greatest scandal waits on greatest state.
The moon being clouded presently is miss’d,
But little stars may hide them when they list. …
To see sad sights moves more than hear them told;
For then eye interprets to the ear
The heavy motion that it doth behold,
When every part a part of woe doth bear.
‘Tis but a part of sorrow that we hear:
Deep sounds make lesser noise than shallow fords,
And sorrow ebbs, being blown with wind of words. …
They whose guilt within their bosoms lie
Imagine every eye beholds their blame…
“Why should the private pleasure of some one
Become the public plague of many mo?
Let sin, alone committed, light alone
Upon his head that hath transgressed so.
Let guiltless souls be freed from guilty woe:
For one’s offence why should so many fall,
To plague a private sin in general?” …
“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.” …
With outward honesty, but yet defiled
With inward vice…”
“Cold hot-burning fire…”
It easeth some, though none it ever cured,
To think their dolour others have endured. …
“Though my gross blood be stain’d with this abuse,
Immaculate and spotless is my mind;
That was not forced; that never was inclined
To accessary yieldings, but still pure
Doth in her poison’d closet yet endure.” …
Sparing justice feeds iniquity. …
“If children predecease progenitors,
We are their offspring, and they none of ours.”