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The Rape of Lucrece

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Act I, Scene 1

The Argument

  • Shakespeare. Lucius Tarquinius, for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus,
    after he had caused his own father-in-law Servius Tullius to be 15
    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 20
    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 posted to Rome; and
    intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of 25
    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 30
    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 35
    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; 40
    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 45
    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 50
    government changed from kings to consuls.