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    The Rape of Lucrece


    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005


    Complete Template Sonnet Numbers

    Complete template (Sonnet numbers)

    After he had completed Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare set about writing the ‘graver labour’ he had promised Southampton in its dedication. The ‘graver labour’ meant turning the legendary tale of Tarquin and Lucrece into a more thoughtful expression of his mythic philosophy than he had achieved with Venus and Adonis.
          InVenus and Adonis, Shakespeare used the logic of his mythic philosophy to correct the inconsistencies in the Ovidian version of the myth. Now, to demonstrate the utility of his mythic logic he chose a legendary story of a type similar to his early history-based plays. Most of the plays written before 1594 were history based: 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, 3 Henry IV, and Richard III were sourced from a combination of historical chronicles and traditional literature. Titus Andronicus written around 1593 is also of interest because, like Lucrece, its backdrop is the Roman world.
          Volumes of academic energy have been expended comparing Shakespeare’s history plays with the historic records. However, the Sonnet philosophy was written to present the mythic philosophy behind all his plays and poems (as argued in Volume 1), then the historic records provide no more than stories upon which Shakespeare developed his philosophic content. So Shakespeare’s ‘graver labour’ in adapting the original rape of Lucrece to his mythic philosophy provides an opportunity to note philosophic distance between his Lucrece and the historical account.
          If, following Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare penned Lucrece in 1594 as the second intentional expression of his already maturing natural logic, then Lucrece should provide evidence of his philosophic intent. If Shakespeare intended to give a more rigorous expression to his philosophy in Lucrece, then there should be a significant use of the themes based in Nature, increase, and truth and beauty. There should also be a greater awareness of the logical conditions for mythic expression, and a correspondingly devastating critique of traditional apologetics.
          The critique of traditional mythologies, begun in the two long poems, was later made definitive in the Sonnets. When the philosophic intent in Lucrece is revealed using the Sonnet logic, it will be evident that Shakespeare’s ‘history’ plays were also written primarily to express his philosophy. From around 1590 when he wrote 1 Henry IV to 1613 when he wrote Henry VIII his intention was to use historical events to demonstrate the ubiquity of natural logic.
          Explicit in Shakespeare’s mythic reworking of Lucrece is a critique of the traditional contradictions involved in sanctifying chastity with its logical implications for sexuality. The contradiction is manifested in the way Tarquin experiences an uncontrollable sexual urge when Colatine makes chastity an object of excessive pride. Consistent with the logical status of the poem as erotic, the mythic consequence for Tarquin and Lucrece, as well as for Colatine, is the death of the procreative opportunity.
          The banishment rather than death of Tarquin at the end of the poem points to the mutual culpability of Colatine and Tarquin in providing the logical conditions for sexual excess. The suicide of Lucrece is the consequence of her inability to assess Tarquin’s intentions because of her unworldly naiveté. Her lengthy deliberations on the logical consequences of innocent chastity, and her identification with the mythological events in the Trojan painting, are precursors to her mythic fate.
          Shakespeare reconstructs the story of Tarquin and Lucrece as a consistent expression of mythic logic. Implicit throughout is a devastating critique of traditional mythological inconsistencies in the biblical representation of the status of myth. By using the mythic logic articulated so precisely in the Sonnets it is possible to appreciate the intent in Venus and Adonis and Lucrece in a way not before achieved. Moreover, it is possible to get a measure of the way Shakespeare’s corpus stands against traditional contradictions and how it presents at the mythic level a consistent expression of the natural logic of life.

    Analysis of Lucrece

    The Argument

    The first stanza of Lucrece is preceded by an ‘Argument’ in prose. It was inserted by Shakespeare to indicate his logical concerns and to background the events described in the poem.
          The ‘Argument’ identifies two types of idealised self-regard critiqued by the mythic logic of Shakespeare’s poem. The ‘excessive pride’ of Lucius Tarquinius, the usurping King of Rome who was responsible for the murder of his father-in-law, is contrasted with the ‘incomparable chastity’ of Colatine’s wife, Lucrece.

    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 Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the peoples suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom: went accompanied with his sons and other Noble men 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 everyone commended the virtues of his own wife: among whom Colatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia …

          The ‘excessive pride’ manifested at the level of kingship is the canker that infects the expectations of Colatine and Tarquin. Excessive pride is identified as the fault that leads to the tragedy of Lucrece’s rape and death. The abrogation of responsibility at the level of kingship corrupts the respect for degree in the society. Shakespeare, throughout his works, is consistent in attributing guilt to the powerful when social order disintegrates. Ulysses’ speech in Troilus and Cressida lays the blame for the malaise in the Greek camp firmly on Agamemnon’s inability to marshal the respect of Achilles and hence the rest of the Greeks.
          Because the poem begins when Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the King, departs on a secret mission to seduce Lucrece in Colatium, Colatine’s hometown, the Argument describes the trial by ‘chastity’ that takes place earlier. During an after-dinner discourse, Tarquin, Colatine and other nobles decide to ride to Rome to determine who has the most virtuous wife. The ‘avouched trial’ was judged a ‘victory’ for Colatine. But Colatine’s gamble on his wife chastity ‘inflames’ Sextus Tarquinius’ passion for ‘Lucrece’s beauty’. So he sets off secretly with an uncontrollable desire to ‘ravish her’.
          The remainder of the ‘Argument’ summarises the events in the poem and closes with Brutus’ ‘bitter invective against the tyranny of the King’. It records that at the end of the poem the absolute power of the King is revoked and replaced by the rule of ‘consuls’.
          Shakespeare’s poem not only considers the personal failures that lead to the death of Lucrece and the exile of Tarquin but, with the banishment of the ‘King’, also addresses their public culpability. The correlation between the judgments of personal and public actions is a consequence of Shakespeare’s consistent natural logic. The correlation is expressed even more explicitly in Coriolanus, also sourced from Roman history.

    The poem

    In the first stanza of Lucrece, Shakespeare introduces the opposing characteristics that determine the illogical actions of the protagonists Colatine, Tarquin and Lucrece. At the same time Shakespeare’s overview of their actions initiates a poem that is a consistent expression of mythic logic.

    From the besieged Ardea all in post,
    Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
    Lust-breathed Tarquin leaves the Roman host,
    And to Colatium bears the lightless fire,
    Which in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire,
        And girdle with embracing flames, the waist
        Of Colatine’s fair love, Lucrece the chaste. (1-7)

          Tarquin hastens from Ardea ‘borne by the trustless wings of false desire’. He brings to the house of Colatine a ‘lightless fire’, or fruitless desire, for ‘Lucrece the chaste’. Tarquin’s ‘false desire’ is a direct consequence of Colatine’s selfish pride generated in a culture of excessive pride.
          In these early lines, Shakespeare signals his intent to critique inconsistent mythologies that replace the priority of human increase in Nature with the false desire for heavenly pleasures. The ‘lightless fire’ of Tarquin’s desire represents, mythically, the logical inability of Shakespeare’s poem, or any poetry, to substitute for the sexual dynamic in Nature. Tarquin’s inability to consummate his lust when he eventually rapes Lucrece is consistent with the fallacy of idealistic expectations, and represents Shakespeare’s awareness of the logical limitations of mythic expression.
          Colatine’s decision to test his wife’s virtue, by riding to Rome to verify his claim, shows an immaturity of judgment. His misjudgment reveals the immaturity of his relationship with Lucrece. Moreover, the implications of his immaturity are again brought to light after Lucrece’s rape. First, when Lucrece agonises about her incapacity to anticipate and resist Tarquin’s evil intent and then, at the end of the poem, when Lucretius (Lucrece’s father) and Colatine fight for the love of the dead Lucrece.
          In the Sonnets, Shakespeare argues that chastity should not be considered an end in itself. Its value is always conditional on a regard for natural logic. If natural logic is not respected then ‘Lucrece’s chastity’ is a defenseless pose.
          So in the first stanza, the three principal protagonists are characterised as having a lack of ‘trust’ in the logical conditions for life. Shakespeare is clear, even in the early 1590s, about the logical conditions for life he later articulates in the philosophy of the Sonnets. After Venus and Adonis he applies them in a poem about an historic event to demonstrate his early mastery of the logical conditions. The mythic consistency of Lucrece shows how Shakespeare systematically used natural logic in his early plays.
          The seriousness of the misjudgments by Colatine, Tarquin and Lucrece in the first stanza is confirmed in the second.

    Haply that name of chaste, unhapp'ly set
    This bateless edge on his keen appetite:
    When Colatine unwisely did not let,
    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. (8-14)

          In Lucrece, Shakespeare does not argue against the value of chastity. Rather he argues against the illogical idealisation of it. So being chaste, which can be the cause of happiness becomes, ‘unhappily’ in Lucrece, the cause of all the drama. It was Lucrece’s illogically valued chasteness that set the ‘bateless edge’ on Tarquin’s ‘appetite’. The blame is attached then to Colatine who ‘unwisely’ could not resist the opportunity to ‘praise the clear unmatched’ resolution of opposites, or ‘red and white’, in Lucrece. In the commentary on Venus and Adonis, it was observed that the interrelation of red and white is symbolic of the logical derivation of the dynamic of truth from beauty.
          The stanza also makes a connection between Colatine’s confusion of ‘red and white’ and his preference for heavenly over mortal ‘stars’. In the Sonnets Shakespeare is at pains to dismiss heavenly ‘stars’ as logically inappropriate as a means to determine truth and beauty. Instead, he identifies the ‘eyes’ as the ‘constant stars’ from which he derives his knowledge and art, or truth and beauty (sonnet 14). It is not surprising, then, that in Lucrece he identifies Colatine’s lack of judgment with his confusion between the heavenly stars and the ‘mortal stars’ that are his wife’s eyes.
          The third stanza specifically connects Colatine’s heavenly conceit with the rousing of Tarquin’s desire.

    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.
    Reck’ning his fortune at such high proud rate,
        That Kings might be espoused to more fame,
        But King nor Peer to such a peerless dame. (15-21)

          Colatine attributes to the ‘heavens’ the ‘priceless wealth’ or ‘treasure’ that was Lucrece. He proudly ‘unlocked’ the ‘treasure’ in the face of Tarquin ‘the night before’. (Not insignificantly, in the Sonnets and plays, ‘treasure’ frequently refers to the vagina.) Colatine exacerbates the effect on Tarquin by asserting that no ‘King’ could have such a ‘dame’. The illogicality of Colatine’s heavenly conceit is compounded by the taunt to Tarquin, the son of the imperial Roman King.
          For Shakespeare, Colatine’s claim that his ‘possession’ (23) of a ‘priceless’ beauty was beyond the ‘peer’, even of kings, is the logical error that leads to his wife’s rape.

    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 expir’d date cancell’d ere well begun.
        Honour and Beauty in the owner’s arms,
        Are weakly fortress’d from a world of harms. (22-8)

          Consistent with the arguments in the Sonnets, regarding the ill consequences of the over-valuation of the ideal, the idealisation of Lucrece creates the fertile ground for the incitement of its contrary. Colatine claimed he ‘possessed’ a ‘heaven’ sent wife, but such ‘heavenly’ standards of ‘Honour and Beauty’ are logically susceptible to ‘the world of harms’.
          Shakespeare’s clarity as to the logical status of beauty, which is precisely articulated in the first 10 Mistress sonnets, was already formed by the early 1590’s. In the next stanza, he gives a disquisition on the logic of beauty.

    Beauty itself doth of itself persuade,
    The eies of men without an Orator,
    What needeth then Apologies be made
    To set forth that which is so singular?
    Or why is Colatine the publisher
        Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown,
        From thievish ears because it is his own? (29-35)

          Beauty is defined as any ‘singular’ (32) sensory effect associated archetypically with the ‘eyes’. Beauty is logically distinct from the process of ‘saying’, as typified by an ‘orator’ or ‘publisher’. The logical distinction in this stanza between ‘beauty’ and ‘orating’ is the same as that presented in the Mistress sonnets between beauty as ‘seeing’ (sonnets 127 to 137) and truth as ‘saying’ (sonnets 137 to 152).
          Because Shakespeare’s poem is also an attack on idealist contradictions, he critiques the tradition of ‘Apologies’ (31) (or arguments made in defense of the inconsistencies in the Christian ideal). Apologetic arguments for the existence of a monotheistic God who is capable of wisdom and judgment are inherently illogical. A ‘singular’ God can only be a sensation of the mind. A sensation cannot be ‘proved’ so the desire to prove the existence of a sensation leads to further inconsistencies.
          Colatine’s desire to publicise his pride over Lucrece’s chastity misconstrues the logic of beauty and truth, with the contrary effect of exciting ‘thievish ears’ (35). (Ironically, just after Shakespeare had articulated his appreciation of natural logic in the Sonnets, Rene Descartes took it on himself to prove the existence of the idealised male God, the illogical ramifications of which are still being addressed by philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein.)
          The next stanza continues the examination of culpability in the rape of Lucrece. It suggests that either Colatine’s ‘boast’ instigated Tarquin’s actions, because on ‘hearing’ the praise of Lucrece his ‘heart’was tainted, or that his envy was incited by his ‘high pitched thoughts’ being stung by the ‘meaner’ Colatine boasting of his ‘golden’ fortune.

    Perchance his boast of Lucrece’s sov’reignity,
    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
        His high pitch’d thoughts
    that meaner men should vaunt
        That golden hap which their superiors want. (36-42)

          The following stanza concludes that ‘some untimely thought’ (43) must have turned Tarquin’s mind for him to ‘speed’ off leaving ‘honour, affairs, friends, his state’ (45) behind.
          It is not the intention of this commentary to make more than passing reference to earlier versions of the story of Tarquin and Lucrece. Even a casual glance at their content, though, reveals a logical gulf between Shakespeare’s opening and theirs. The first six stanzas in Lucrece do not limit the fault to Tarquin, as do the older versions. In Shakespeare’s version they implicate Colatine, and by association Lucrece. The examination of culpability, initiated in these stanzas, then becomes an underlying theme for the whole poem.
          Shakespeare begins Lucrece with an examination of the logic of truth and beauty, or wisdom and appetite, out of the conflict of chastity and desire. The root logic behind the faults of Colatine and Lucrece is not given precise expression, however, until the end of the poem when, in their reasons for the fight over Lucrece’s body, Colatine and Lucretius reveal their ignorance of the increase logic. So in Lucrece, Shakespeare reverses the order in the presentation of his argument from Venus and Adonis. There he established the logic of the increase argument out of Nature, and then considered the consequent effects if it is ignored and abrogated.
          Shakespeare demonstrates, by the opposing strategies in the two long poems, that whichever way his philosophy is used its consistency does not depend on formal considerations. His natural philosophy, being the basic logic for human existence, needs only be adhered to for it to be felt in poems or plays. The history-based plays, for instance, are as much written from the foundation of natural logic as is a play such as Love’s Labour’s Lost, which was conceived expressly by Shakespeare to present his philosophy.
          When Tarquin arrives at Collatium, Lucrece, ‘within whose face Beauty and Virtue strived’ (52), welcomed him. For the next three and a half stanzas, Shakespeare continues to characterise beauty as sensation, logically derived from the face and eyes. Tarquin can only ‘gaze’ as the colour of Lucrece’s face gives rise to an interplay of sensations.

    When Virtue bragg’d, Beauty would blush for shame,
        When Beauty boasted blushes, in despite
        Virtue would stain that o’er with silver white.

    But Beauty in that white entituled
    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’s face was seen,
    Argu’d 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 sov’reignity of either being so great,
        That oft they interchange each other’s seat.

    This 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 killed.
    The coward captive vanquished, doth yield
        To those two Armies that would let him go,
        Rather than triumph in so false a foe. (54-77)

          The ‘silent’ nature of the ‘war’between the ‘Lilies and the Roses’ typifies the battle of the senses. The ‘war’ is characterised as ‘silent’ because beauty in Shakespeare’s logic is any unworded sense. This is consistent with the characterisation of beauty in sonnet 137 as the inability of the ‘eyes’ to know whether ‘what they see’, is the ‘best’ or the ‘worst’. By contrast, in 1 Henry IV the argument between York and Somerset, amongst red and white roses, ends in clearly declared differences.
          When Colatine’s ‘shallow tongue’ (78) is called a ‘niggard prodigal’, Shakespeare re-confirms the reason for Tarquin’s lust. Colatine’s ‘praise’ was excessive for the meanest of reasons, boastful pride. Tarquin’s awe at the war of beauty and virtue in Lucrece’s face would not of themselves have led to lust. Instead, it was Colatine’s impossibly ‘high task’ (80) of doing justice to his wife that does her beauty wrong. Colatine has ‘barren skill’ because the praise he owes his wife falls short and further incites Tarquin to do justice to the ‘silent wonder’ (84) he considers Colatine is unable to appreciate.

    Now thinks he that her husband’s shallow tongue,
    The niggard prodigal that prais’d her so:
    In that high task hath done her Beauty wrong.
    Which far exceeds his barren skill to show.
    Therefore that praise which Colatine doth owe,
        Enchanted Tarquin answers with surmise,
        In silent wonder of still gazing eyes. (78-84)

          Shakespeare then turns the full force of his irony on Lucrece.

    This earthly saint adored by this devil,
    Little suspecteth the false worshipper:
    For unstain’d thoughts do seldom dream on evil.
    Birds never lim’d no secret bushes ear:
    So guiltless she securely gives good cheer,
        And reverend welcome to her princely guest,
        Whose inward ill no outward harm express’d. (85-91)

          Lucrece is characterised as a Christian-like living ‘saint’ who ‘little suspecteth the false worshipper’ (86) and who gives a ‘reverend’ welcome to her ‘princely’ guest. By contrast, the ‘devil’Tarquin hides his ‘inward ill’ (91) in princely status.

    For that he colour’d with his high estate,
    Hiding base sin in pleats of Majesty: (92-3)

          Not only is Colatine guilty of bragging of his wife’s beauty for selfish male driven ends, his ‘possession’ of her has kept her from maturing into a woman capable of assessing the evil intent in others. Near the end of the poem, her father also reveals his role in keeping her innocent of insight into the minds of men. Her obedience to authority, especially that of her husband and her father, blinds her to the possibility that men of rank are as capable of evil as other men.
          The illogical consequences of the idealised good and evil, epitomised in the saintliness of Lucrece and the devilry of Tarquin, is a constant theme in the plays, and particularly Measure for Measure. There, Angelo’s goodness reveals its hidden evil, and Isabella’s intention to be a nun is rendered redundant as she becomes more worldly wise.
          The logical relationship between good and evil is defined in the Mistress sequence of the Sonnets, where Shakespeare presents the Poet in a mature and robust relationship with the Mistress. This is particularly evident in sonnet 138, which articulates the logic of truth, or the dynamic of right and wrong. The Mistress and the Poet ‘lie’ together fully conscious of the logic of avowed intent.
          Lucrece’s failure to anticipate Tarquin’s desire is attributed to her inability to ‘moralise’ (104). She is unable to consciously decide between right and wrong because she cannot articulate her concerns using language or words. As Shakespeare associates truth logically with saying, her incapacity to discuss such matters leaves her vulnerable.

    But she that never cop’d with stranger eyes,
    Could pick no meaning from their parling looks,
    Nor read the subtle shining secrecies,
    Writ in the glassy margents of such books,
    She touch’d no unknown baits, nor fear’d no hooks,
        Nor could she moralise his wanton sight,
        More than his eyes were open’d to the light. (101-5)

          When she is told of Colatine’s fame by Tarquin, as part of his deception, she does not converse with him but, as a trained female possession, she responds mutely.

        Her joy with heav’d-up hand she doth express,
        And wordless so greets heaven for his success. (111-2)

          The Sonnets are explicit in acknowledging the status of Nature as the sovereign mistress or the logically prior state of existence. They then derive the female from Nature as the Mistress, establishing the priority of the female over the male, or Master Mistress. So these lines, written 15 years before the Sonnets were published, are poignant in their witness to the logical fault of male priority that leads to Colatine’s boast, Tarquin’s hot desire, and thence to Lucrece’s rape and suicide.
          When Tarquin has been greeted and feted, Tarquin and Lucrece retire to their respective beds. While she sleeps innocently, he lies awake aroused by the anticipation and the implications of his intended crime. As Tarquin ponders his assault, his thoughts express both his resolve and his doubts about achieving his goal.
          Shakespeare, consistent with the erotic logic of his mythic level of expression, invests Tarquin’s first thoughts with the eroticism inherent in language. Tarquin’s ‘will’ (128) rises and falls as he contemplates Lucrece’s ‘treasure’ (132). Shakespeare’s continual use of double entendre in his plays, poems and sonnets is an inalienable consequence of his awareness that all writing is logically erotic and not sexual.
          Before Tarquin speaks his thoughts aloud in line 181, Shakespeare characterises his intended crime as the result of taking to ‘excess’ (138) the naturally viable conditions for life. Those who wish to ‘surfeit’ (139) themselves will ‘prove bankrout in this poor rich gain’ (140). The ‘aim of all is but to nurse the life’ each has, rather than cause the ‘death of all, and (be) altogether lost’ (147). In his attack on the excesses of idealistic ambitions, with their illogical implications for ‘life’, he says,

    So that in vent’ring 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
    . (148-54)

          Colatine’s idealistic glorification of his wife leads Tarquin to the same logical error, but with negative consequences. Colatine’s possessive ‘love’ leads to Tarquin’s obsessive ‘lust’ (156).
          Shakespeare’s expression of a pre-Sonnet appreciation the logic of ‘truth’ is evident in the next stanza. Truth is associated with the language-based dispositions of thinking and slandering. If there is no ‘self-trust’ then the natural logic of ‘truth’ (158) is confounded. ‘Thinking’ becomes unjust and ‘tongues’ become slanderous. For Tarquin to pursue his lust, his natural ‘self ’ must be forsaken.
          When Tarquin rises from bed, his desire is evoked in a continuous barrage of erotic puns. They serve to delineate the logical divide between the sexual as biological and poetry as fashioned with words. From the introductory ‘his Falchon on a flint he softly smiteth’, to ‘his lustful eye’ (179), to ‘his naked armour of still slaughter’d lust’ (188), and the ‘fair torch burn out thy light’ (190) the early stanzas are replete with such puns.
          Then later, ‘with his knee the door he opens wide’ (359), ‘a greater uproar tempts his veins’ (427), ‘his flaming torch dimm’d’ (448), ‘this sweet City’ (469), ‘my uncontrolled tide’ (645), and ‘in her lip’s sweet fold’ (679) are some of the many examples. Even at the end of the poem with its, ‘Thy eye kindled the fire that burneth here’ (1475), and ‘A creeping creature with a flaming light’ (1627), Shakespeare never forgets that logically a poem is a poem in which things are eroticised with words.
          After rising, Tarquin’s first words reaffirm Shakespeare’s determination to explore his consistent natural logic in this remodeled version of the old tale. Tarquin addresses the relation of his ‘fair torch’ and ‘unhallow’d thoughts’ to the ‘divine’ (190-4). Because of Colatine’s possessive pride, Lucrece represents both the ‘fair’ and the ‘unhallowed’ in his mind.
          Lucrece does not exist as a person for Tarquin. Rather, he is more concerned he will ‘spot’ her ‘modest snow-white weed’ or shame his ‘knighthood’, ‘household’s grave’, ‘martial valour’, or ‘golden coat’ and incur posterity’s ‘curse’ (196-209). His concerns complement Colatine’s, because together they manifest the contradiction in traditional idealistic expectations.
          Tarquin, Colatine and Lucretius are united in their ignorance and disregard for natural logic. While Tarquin is the one who enacts most graphically the evil consequences of their conceits, Colatine and Lucretius also sell ‘eternity’ to get a ‘toy’ (214). Their grotesque fight over Lucrece’s body at the end of the poem is an indictment of the excessive idealism. In Shakespeare’s natural logic, as the Sonnets reinforce, the only viable ‘eternity’ for humankind is the persistence of humankind. By comparison, the mirage of a heavenly eternity is a ‘toy’.
          As he considers his reasons for raping Lucrece, Tarquin dismisses a number of possible causes.

    ‘Had Collatinus kill’d my son or sire,
    Or lain in ambush to betray my life,
    Or were he not my dear friend, this desire
    Might have excuse to work upon his wife:
    As in revenge or quittal of such strife.
        But as he is my kinsman, my dear friend,
        The shame and fault finds no excuse or end. (232-8)

          If Colatine had done him a palpable wrong, Tarquin would not be at a loss for a reason for his deadly lust. But Tarquin cannot see the underlying offence to natural logic that is the ‘excuse’ or ‘end’ for his ‘shame and fault’ (238). His male-driven idealism prevents him from appreciating that he is drawn to Lucrece firstly because of Colatine’s representation of her as incomparably divine, and secondly because she is Colatine’s flaunted possession. Tarquin recognises that ‘she is not her own’ (241), but out of envy rather than sympathy for her social position.
          His capture by the divine and by societal prejudices means that his ‘disputation’ inverts logic to create a ‘frozen conscience’ and a ‘hot burning will’. The result is that ‘what is vile, shows like a virtuous deed’.

    Thus graceless he holds disputation,
    ’Tween frozen conscience and hot burning will,
    And with good thoughts makes dispensation,
    Urging the worser sense for vantage still;
    Which in a moment doth confound and kill
        All pure effects, and doth so far proceed,
        That what is vile, shows like a virtuous deed. (246-52)

          The potential for a logical derivation of truth and beauty is available in Lucrece’s face, with her ‘colour’ rising, ‘first red as Roses’ and then ‘white as lawn’ (258-9). But Tarquin’s unintended pun that ‘Colatine lies’ (256), combined with his overestimation of her ‘sweet’ (264) smile leads to the inversion of truth and beauty from their logical roles as ‘saying’ and ‘seeing’.

    ‘All Orators are dumb when Beauty pleadeth’. (268)

          In the Sonnets, the youth is the immature male who has not accommodated himself to the requirements of natural logic. In a graphic image of Tarquin’s confusion, Shakespeare has Tarquin wish to be rid of ‘childish fear’ but still want to remain a ‘youth’. Tarquin rejects the ‘respect and reason’ that waits on ‘wrinkled age’, (275) or the status of the mature Poet in the Sonnets.

    ‘Then childish fear avaunt, debating die,
    Respect and reason wait on wrinkled age:
    My heart shall never countermand mine eie;
    Sad pause, and deep regard beseems the sage;
    My part is youth, and beats these from the stage.
        Desire my Pilot is, Beauty my prize,
        Then who fears sinking where such treasure lies?’ (274-80)

          Lucrece’s idealised beauty is the irresistible prize for Tarquin. When ‘fear’ and ‘lust’ are said to ‘cross him with their opposite persuasion’ (281-4), Shakespeare uses an allusion to the cross of Christ to indicate the true motivation behind the crime. The next stanza identifies the cause of Tarquin’s lust.

    Within his thought her heavenly image sits,
    And in the self same seat sits Colatine,
    That eye which looks on her confounds her wits,
    That eye which him beholds, as more divine,
    Unto a view so false will not incline,
        But with a pure appeal seeks to the heart,
        Which once corrupted takes the worser part. (288-94)

          Tarquin’s lack of maturity is matched only by the self-interest of Colatine who, with his subservient Lucrece, are the divine couple. Colatine’s ‘self same’ pride is the component that tips the balance in Tarquin’s mind. Shakespeare parodies the biblical moment in which the pride of God attempts to cast out the erotic pride of Satan. But the mythologies of Genesis and the New Testament show by their intense eroticism the logical irreducibility of the erotic. By adding the role of a woman to the heavenly fall out, Shakespeare restores the logical component missing from the juvenile biblical version. The restoration allows him to sustain a consistent mythic expression.
          Tarquin’s ‘corruption’, inherent in the overvalued ideal, ‘heartens up his servile powers'.

    And therein heartens up his servile powers,
    Who flatter’d by their leader’s jocund show,
    Stuff up his lust: as minutes fill up hours.
    And as their Captain: so their pride doth grow,
    Paying more slavish tribute than they owe.
        By reprobate desire thus madly led,
        The Roman Lord marcheth to Lucrece’s bed. (295-301)

          Tarquin’s sexual response to Lucrece is linked unequivocally to the ‘reprobate desire’ or the desire that ejects itself out of the ‘heavenly divine’. Shakespeare makes his point even more explicit by referring to Tarquin as the Roman Lord, a possible reference to the self-serving infallibility of the Vicar of Rome.
          As Tarquin breaks his way into Lucrece’s ‘chamber’ (302), his progress is recorded in a series of erotic metaphors. Even Lucrece’s glove, an otherwise innocent emblem of her dutiful service, hides a ‘prick’ (319). If the chasteness of the ‘mistress’ ornaments’ are apt to play ‘wanton tricks’, Tarquin’s mind is now so affected by her flaunted beauty he interprets the prick in the ‘worst sense’ (324).
          Tarquin is barely aware of the forces that are acting on him. He has inverted the relation of good and evil because the nature of the heavenly good has elicited from him a diabolically evil response. His desire for Lucrece has become the heaven, as heaven is the source and cause, Satan like, of his sin. In his mind though, as with all reprobate idealists, he is still a good ‘Roman’ free to call on the ‘eternal power’.

    Now is he come unto the chamber door,
    That shuts him from the Heaven of his thought,
    Which with a yielding latch, and with no more,
    Hath barr’d him from the blessed thing he sought.
    So from himself impiety hath wrought,
        That for his prey to pray he doth begin,
        As if the Heavens should countenance his sin.

    But in the midst of his unfruitful prayer,
    Having solicited th’eternal power,
    That his foul thoughts might compass his fair fair,
    And they would stand auspicious to the hour.
    Even there he starts, quoth he, ‘I must deflower;
        The powers to whom I pray abhor this fact,
        How can they then assist me in the act?

    ‘Then Love and Fortune be my Gods, my guide,
    My will is back’d with resolution:
    Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried,
    The blackest sin is clear’d with absolution.
    Against love’s fire fear’s frost hath dissolution.
        The eye of Heaven is out, and misty night
        Covers the shame that follows sweet delight
    ’. (337-57)

          His expectation, that the ‘Heavens should countenance his sin’ and that ‘the blackest sin is clear’d with absolution’ because ‘Love and Fortune’ are his ‘Gods’, arises when the pride of the ideal trips completely into the ‘deflowering’ of the ideal. Tarquin cannot help himself because he is logically in the ‘night’ that the day, or idealised ‘eye of Heaven’, ‘abhors’. Tarquin’s faith in the ideal allows the ‘blackest sin’ because it also provides ‘absolution’. His blind entrapment in the contradictions of heavenly power is recognised at the end of the poem when he is exiled but not executed for the rape of Lucrece. As the guilt is only partly his, Lucrece and Colatine must also pay part of the price.
          Tarquin uses his knee to open the last door and enters to see Lucrece asleep. His eyes are (again) ‘dazzled’ by her brightness (376-7). Her eyes are closed or blind in keeping with the blindness of Colatine. If Colatine had been by Lucrece’s side, and not in the camp where his bragging had incited Tarquin to lust, she would not have to ‘sell her joy, her life, her world’s delight’. The logical inevitability of the rape and death of Lucrece is captured in the ‘must’ of lines 383 and 385.

    But they must ope this blessed league to kill,
        And holy-thoughted Lucrece to their sight,
        Must sell her joy, her life, her world’s delight. (383-5)

          After the rape, Lucrece will reflect at length on the fatal trap of her ‘holythoughted’ delusions. In Shakespeare’s mind, as evident in the complete structure and principal themes of the Sonnets, the worst evil is the evil that inevitably follows on overwrought idealism. It was the greatest evil in his day where Christian sects killed and raped in the name of God and it persists as the greatest evil in nearly all the theatres of war in the twenty-first century. No evil is excusable, but the evil consequent on idealism is an abomination because it corrupts the human mind from within. Shakespeare’s Lucrece is a ‘graver labour’ because it addresses more precisely than Venus and Adonis the illogical consequences of beliefs based in the old mythologies.
          The description of Tarquin gazing on the body of Lucrece is repleat with erotic puns. Her ‘pair of maiden worlds’ (408) and his ‘willful eye’ controlled by his ‘will’ (417) characterise the rape as a conflict between the world outside and its misrepresentation in the human mind. Her body is the ‘world’ that will be violated because of a sickness of the mind. Shakespeare’s natural logic, even at this early stage in his career, provides a clear overview of the conflict. He uses mythic logic to generate a state of mind where there is no ‘strife, but that life liv’d in death, and death in life’ (405-6).
          When Lucrece opens her eyes, she begins the agonised awakening from the innocence of her subjection to the ‘possessive’ authority of Colatine and her father.

    Imagine her as one in dead of night,
    From forth dull sleep by dreadful fancy waking,
    That thinks she hath beheld some ghastly sprite,
    Whose grim aspect sets every joint a shaking.
    What terror ’tis: but she in worser taking,
        From sleep disturbed, heedfully doth view
        The sight which makes supposed error true. (449-55)

          The ‘error’ that before was ‘supposed’ not even to be possible is now made the ‘worser’ for becoming ‘true’. Tarquin’s threatening presence in her bedchamber not only awakens her instincts to the possibility of rape, but also awakens her to her ignorance of its existence as a possibility.
          When Tarquin replies to Lucrece’s ‘prayers’ to explain ‘under what colour he commits this ill’ (476), he immediately draws the logical connection between the sexual eyes of the body and the eyes of the mind. He contrasts the lily white of her face with the ‘red rose’ of her sexual organs, which ‘blush at her own disgrace’.

    Thus he replies, ‘the colour in thy face,
    That even for anger makes the Lily pale
    And the red rose blush at her own disgrace,
    Shall plead for me and tell my loving tale.
    Under that colour am I come to scale
        Thy never conquer’d Fort, the fault is thine,
        For those thine eyes betray thee unto mine
    . (477-83)

          Shakespeare uses the conflict of colours to characterise the logical relation between beauty as sensation and truth or the dynamic of words. Tarquin tells Lucrece that the ‘pale’ and the ‘rose red’ colour in her face ‘plead’ for him and ‘tell his tale’. He needs no argument outside the evidence in her face to decide that the ‘fault’ is hers. The response in her face tells him that her innocence hides its opposite, which he ‘has come to scale’. Tarquin sees in Lucrece’s ‘eyes’ the consequence of her ignorance of the logic of the ‘eyes’, which is both sexual and visual. Her fault ‘betrays’ the suppressed response of her natural logic to his sexual eye (‘mine’).
          Her ‘beauty’, which has been sold cheap by Colatine, has ‘newly bred’ the ‘will’ or penis of Tarquin as he is driven to redress the imbalance in her and Colatine’s attitude to life.

    ‘Thus I forestall thee, if thou mean to chide,
    Thy beauty hath ensnar’d thee to this night,
    Where thou with patience must my will abide,
    My will that marks thee for my earth’s delight,
    Which I to conquer sought with all my might.
        But as reproof and reason beat it dead,
        By thy bright beauty was it newly bred. (484-90)

          In these stanzas, where Tarquin tells Lucrece the apparent reasons behind his assault, Shakespeare logically underpins the relation between the ‘singularity’ of Lucrece’s beauty and the ‘debate’ of truth with the metaphor of the increase argument. In line 490 with ‘bred’, and 499 with ‘What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed;’ Tarquin tacitly acknowledges the primacy of increase and tacitly admits his offence against it by way of rape.
          But, Tarquin cannot ‘stop the headlong fury of his speed’ (501). He ‘shakes aloft his Roman blade’ (505) to put the fear of sex into Lucrece. Then, speaking for the second time, he again invokes aspects of the increase argument.

    ‘So thy surviving husband shall remain
    The scornful mark of every open eye,
    Thy kinsmen hang their heads at this disdain,
    Thy issue blurr’d with nameless bastardy;
    And thou the author of their obloquy,
        Shalt have thy trespass cited up in rhymes
        And sung by children in succeeding times. (519-25)

          The arguments recall the logic of the early increase sonnets. He returns to the theme in the following stanza.

    ‘Then for thy husband and thy children’s sake,
    Tender my suit, bequeath not to their lot
    The shame that from them no device can take,
    The blemish that will never be forgot:
    Worse than a slavish wipe, of birth hour’s blot,
        For marks descried in men’s nativity,
        Are nature’s faults, not their own infamy’. (533-9)

          Shakespeare explicitly identifies the cause of the rape with human constructs such as a heavenly God and imagined idealised qualities. The last few lines clearly distinguish between such unconscionable mind-based faults and readily mitigated ‘faults’ which occur in the general course of Nature.
          As Tarquin faces the inconsistencies of human love in extremis, he automatically attempts to establish a consistent basis from which Lucrece and he can both act out the logical consequences of their offences against natural law (497). In the first words between Tarquin and Lucrece, Shakespeare allows Tarquin to express thoughts that draw on his previously suppressed natural logic. While Tarquin does not comprehend the logic of the interrelation between increase and truth and beauty in Nature, he seeks answers to the intensity of his unanticipated lust. Venus and Adonis was explicit in presenting the logical consequences of the offence against natural law and by the time Shakespeare published the Sonnets he had articulated the logic with exquisite precision.
          For Lucrece, as a ‘picture of pure piety’ (542) who is protected from the ways of Nature by ‘gentle’ laws, there seem to be no laws for the ‘rough beast’. She responds with ‘prayer’ (558) to his ‘foul appetite’, without appreciating its cause in her ‘pure piety’. Her inadequate pleas or words can only delay his unholy ‘haste’ (552). She uses her ‘modest eloquence’ mixed with ‘sighs’ to add grace to her ‘oratory’.

    Her modest eloquence with sighs is mixed,
    Which to her Oratory adds more grace.
    She puts the period often from his place,
        And midst the sentence so her accent breaks,
        That twice she doth begin ere once she speaks. (563-7)

          Her inability to express her thoughts is a consequence of her sheltered piety, and the authoritarian ‘possession’ of her mind by her husband. When Shakespeare has her appeal to Tarquin’s sense of honour, she unwittingly excludes the reason that instigated his desire. The reasons she gives are a measure of her circumscribed existence. Unlike Tarquin, who has broken through the barrier of idealistic expectations, not one of her reasons acknowledges the logical interrelation between Nature, increase and truth and beauty basic to a consistent philosophy of life.

    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 borrowed bed he make retire,
        And stoop to Honour, not to foul desire. (568-74)

          She appeals, pitifully, to ‘all the host of heaven’ (598) and to her previous inflated image of Tarquin as ‘as God, a King’. Her unquestioning respect for ‘Kings’ and ‘Gods’, in which ironically she is ignorant of the logically corrupt condition of divine rule in Ancient (and Renaissance) Rome, is symptomatic of her malaise under Colatine.

        ‘Thou seem’st not what thou art, a God, a King.
        For kings like Gods should govern everything’. (601-2)

          In Shakespeare’s version of the legend, Lucrece suffers rape and death because she is her husband’s dupe. In Sonnet terms, and in terms of all the plays, she has been untrue to her logical status as a female as prior to any male. Appropriately, at the end of the poem, the right of a male to divine rule is overthrown and replaced with a more democratic system of responsibility.
          Then through lines 603 to 644, Lucrece continues her unwittingly useless appeal to Tarquin’s sense of majesty and God (‘by him that gave it thee’, 624). Shakespeare’s natural logic obviates the orthodox understanding of ‘degree’ as allegiance within a hierarchy of power. In Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare has Ulysses reject the traditional hierarchies obedient to degree and to replace it with an unhierarchical logic of responsibility. Ulysses does so eloquently, but in Lucrece Shakespeare has Lucrece reveal her gullibility when she plays on Tarquin’s hopes for the imperial throne.
          Tarquin responds curtly, saying she has only increased his desire by parading the very causes of it in Colatine’s overstretched ideal and his boastful challenge to Tarquin’s kingly pride.

    ‘Have done’, quoth he, ‘my uncontrolled tide
    Turns not, but swells the higher by this let. (645-6)

          But, like any idealist not disabused of their conceits, Lucrece returns to the same arguments. Ironically, again, she makes the argument turn on the nobility of ‘Kings’ over ‘slaves’ (652, 659), not appreciating that Tarquin has forsaken her ‘heaven’ for an elementary course in Shakespeare’s natural logic which ‘vizards’ degree. In the plays, no character is inherently more worthy than another simply because of their station. A fool and a peasant have same dignity as a ruler and the same human responsibilities. Many of his plays focus on rulers to capitalise on the dramatic distance they fall when they are unseated by natural logic.
          With erotic economy, Shakespeare conveys the double entendre of the rape. The silencing of Lucrece’s ‘outcry’ is conflated with his sexual attack.

        Entombs her outcry in her lips’ sweet fold. (679)

          Because both Tarquin and Lucrece are victims of the heavenly conceit and its supporting social order, the rape leaves her ‘rifled of her store’ and leaves him ‘far poorer than before’.

    But 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. (687-93)

          Lucrece loses ‘a dearer thing than life’ because ‘pure chastity’, after Tarquin’s ‘forced’ rape, leads not to ‘store’, or future increase, but ‘breeds months of pain’. Tarquin has ‘won’ her, but because he has raped her, he loses his right to the ‘store’. His violent response, instigated by her flaunted idealised chastity and Colatine’s taunts, leads not to a re-storation of Nature’s balance, but to a worse state ‘far poorer than before’.
          Both Lucrece and Tarquin, before the events leading to the rape, were at odds with natural logic. She because her husband considered her chastity a possession and being possessed she was unable to develop into a mature woman capable of making judgments on God and King. He because, as a prince intended to be a divine King and willing to subject his own wife to the test of possession, was fatally tempted by the seeming ideal of Lucrece and Colatine’s excessive pride.
          While both protagonists were at odds with natural logic, neither was in a position to do more than suffer the consequences of their ignorance. Hence, the rape is an anathema to increase as conveyed by her chastity being bereft of its capacity to ‘store’ or the persistence through increase to posterity. His lust is a thief because, by subjecting her to ‘months of pain’, he loses any right to her ‘store’.
          Tarquin, to his selfish sense of shame, is unable to take ‘delight’ in an act, which is otherwise normal in ‘nature’. His lustful attack on Lucrece falls short of consummation.

    Look as the full-fed Hound of gorged Hawk,
    Unapt for tender smell, or speedy flight,
    Make slow pursuit, or altogether balk,
    The prey wherein by nature they delight:
    So surfeit-taking Tarquin fares this night:
        His taste delicious, in digestion souring,
        Devours his will that liv’d by foul devouring. (694-700)

          Tarquin’s expectations are so great, his lust so ‘full-fed’, that his long anticipated attack slows and stops ‘altogether’. He balks before a ‘prey’, which in ordinary circumstances he would expect to enjoy. By going against ‘nature’, even though he is reacting blindly against the unnatural idealism he shares with Colatine and Lucrece, he ‘tastes’ the prey but has no stomach for it. His ‘will’ or mind ‘devours’ his willy before he consummates the deed.
          The non-consummation of the sex act has parallels in Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass where the Bride and the Bachelors do not consummate their ballet of desire. The eroticism of the non-consummation is a logical precondition for mythic expression. This is true of biblical or any other mythology.
          Tarquin’s ‘conceit’ is so ‘bottomless’ (without consummation), that his ‘sin’ seems deeper because of the failure of his ‘still imagination’.

    O deeper sin than bottomless conceit
    Can comprehend in still imagination!
    Drunken Desire must vomit his receipt
    Ere he can see his own abomination.
    While Lust is in his pride no exclamation
        Can curb his heat, or rein his rash desire,
        Till, like a Jade, self-will himself doth tire. (701-7)

          Because he approached Lucrece ‘drunken with desire’, his desire is vomited back in his face before he can witness the execution of his ‘abominable’ crime. While ‘lust’was in his ‘pride’ no ‘exclamation’ by Lucrece could prevent the assault but, put to the task, his ‘self-will’ fails like a jade or old horse.
          Having embarrassed his own pride beyond disgrace, Tarquin turns to Lucrece, ‘prays for remission’ and, submissive because his ‘proud’ flesh is in ‘weak ruins’, even asks how she feels.

    And then with lank, and lean discolour’d cheek,
    With heavy eye, knit-brow, and strengthless pace,
    Feeble desire all recreant, poor and meek,
    Like to a bankrout beggar wails his case:
    The flesh being proud, Desire doth fight with grace,
        For there it revels, and when that decays,
        The guilty rebel for remission prays.

    So fares it with this faultful Lord of Rome,
    Who this accomplishment so hotly chased;
    For now against himself he sounds this doom,
    That through the length of times he stands disgraced
    :
    Besides his soul’s fair temple is defaced,
        To whose weak ruins muster troops of cares,
        To ask the spotted Princess how she fares. (708-21)

          Both Tarquin’s penis and his bottomless conceit or soul have been ‘defaced’. His ‘soul’s fair temple’, or the imaginary structure erected to idealised expectations, is in ‘weak ruins’.
          To Tarquin’s self-abasing pity she responds with her own self-pity, recognising that the loss of her ‘consecrated wall’, or ‘married chastity’ as Shakespeare calls it in The Phoenix and the Turtle, ruins her hope of heavenly ‘immortality’.

    She says her subjects with foul insurrection,
    Have battered down her consecrated wall,
    And by their mortal fault brought in subjection
    Her immortality, and made her thrall,
    To living death and pain perpetual.
        Which in her prescience she controlled still,
        But her foresight could not forestall their will. (722-8)

          The deluded birds in The Phoenix and the Turtle have their precursor in Lucrece who has been taught that ‘mortal life’ is a living death and pain perpetual. But, even she admits that, with ‘prescience’ or foreknowledge, mortal life was quite ‘controllable’. The only threat to her life was the ‘foresight’ that her death could not be forestalled.
          Tarquin departs like a ‘thievish dog’ (736) who ‘chides his vanish’d loath’d delight’ (742). Lucrece remains and prays she will never again see the light of day.

    ‘For day’, quoth she, ‘night’s ’scapes doth open lay,
        And my true eyes have never practic’d how
        To cloak offences with a cunning brow. (747-9)

          Lucrece’s first words after the shock of the rape capture a momentary insight into the illogicalities of her previous understanding of life. Her slavish idealism, enforced by Colatine’s pride, has kept her from seeing the ‘true’ nature of the world. Because her idealism was so extreme, Shakespeare has to rape her figuratively to destroy its false sense of immortality.
          Shakespeare puts into Lucrece’s mouth words that express an instantaneous recognition of natural logic. When she is forced to recover her feminine insights she recognises that she has never been able to ‘practice’ how her ‘true eyes’ (in the Sonnets the source of truth and beauty) could protect her with ‘cunning’. Shakespeare’s use of the word cunning, with its double reference to the body and the mind, conveys her admission that she was not mentally prepared to defend her ‘cunt’ from Tarquin’s attack. The effect on her mind of the contradictions of idealism has its logical counterpart in the dissociation of the mind from the body, which renders her body vulnerable to attack from Tarquin’s idealism gone mad.
          Lucrece’s enlightenment, her realignment with her ‘true eyes’, allows her to see for the first time that no one with ‘true eyes’ thinks otherwise. Everybody else can see the same disgrace that their eyes behold.

    ‘They think not but that every eye can see,
    The same disgrace which they themselves behold
    :
    And therefore would they still in darkness be,
    To have their unseen sin remain untold.
    For they their guilt with weeping will unfold,
        And grave like water that doth eat in steel,
        Upon my cheeks, what helpless shame I feel’. (750-6)

          But the reality is too fresh for Lucrece. She would rather the ‘true eyes’ were still in darkness so that their ‘sin’ remained ‘untold’. The logical function of the ‘eyes’ that Shakespeare identifies as the source of truth and beauty in sonnet 14, at the juncture between body and mind, dawns momentarily on Lucrece. But her obedience to Colatine’s idealist proscriptions is too inured in her behavior to save her from a death by her own hand.
          Shakespeare allows Lucrece a short-lived insight into the logical cause of her disgrace. Then, for the remainder of the poem, he uses Lucrece’s plight to provide an extended study of the illogical rationale of apologetics or arguments for the primacy of the ideal. For the next forty or more stanzas Lucrece, blinded by an unwitting adherence to the ideal, ‘exclaims against’ (757) night, opportunity, and time, she confuses body and soul, she defends Colatine, and then contemplates suicide.
          Lucrece’s refusal to see what ‘true eyes’ see, leads her to remain ‘blind’ to the ‘unseen secrecy of night’ (758-63). However, by not facing the light afforded by ‘true eyes’, night provides not comfort but greater anguish.

    ‘O comfort-killing night, image of Hell,
    Dim register, and notary of shame,
    Black stage for tragedies, and murders fell,
    Vast sin-concealing Chaos, nurse of blame.
    Blind muffled bawd, dark harbour for defame,
        Grim cave of death, whispering conspirator,
        With close-tongued treason and the ravisher. (764-70)

          Lucrece’s blames ‘night’ for the difficultly she has articulating the true cause of her rape. She calls night a ‘blind muffled bawd’ (768) and ‘whispering conspirator, with close-tongued treason’ (771-2) as she transfers her ‘guilt’ (772) to its ‘poisonous clouds’ (777). With words such as ‘bawd’, ‘tongued’, ‘his wonted height’, ‘noontide prick’, Shakespeare ironically injects into Lucrece’s complaint the erotic sensibility, based in the increase out of Nature, of which she is fatally bereft. She is unable to appreciate how the ‘life of purity, the supreme fair’ (780), when over valued, leads to a ‘Tarquin night’ (785).
          The ideal of purity and its consequence in inarticulateness lead Lucrece to feel ‘alone, alone’ (795). The phrase occurs in Love’s Labour’s Lost (4.3.1734) (and the word ‘alone’ occurs in sonnet 84.2) where it characterises the condition of being alone, or sundered from the natural logic of increase in Nature. The editors of modern editions of Love’s Labour’s Lost reveal their gross misunderstanding of Shakespeare’s philosophy when they amend this sense of ‘alone’ to the meaningless exclamation ‘allons, allons’.
          Lucrece ironically attributes Colatine’s possessiveness (803), which has kept her innocent, to the ‘sepulcher’ (805) of night, or the death-orientated idealism of Christ. And, in the next stanza, she projects her inability to articulate the vision of her ‘true eye’ onto illiterates. Even though they cannot read, they sense intuitively that the eyes or ‘looks’ cannot conceal the evidence of her ‘decay’.

    ‘Make me not object to the tell-tale day,
    The light will show character’d in my brow,
    The story of sweet chastity’s decay,
    The impious breach of holy wedlock vow.
    Yea the illiterate that know not how
        To cipher what is writ in learned books,
        Will quote my loathsome trespass in my looks. (806-12)

          ‘Sweet chastity’ decays because the vow of ‘holy wedlock’ is not sufficient to prevent a breach of its overvalued piety. As in The Phoenix and the Turtle, where ‘married chastity’was the ‘infirmity’that led the two birds to a deluded death, Lucrece’s faith in her obedient marriage to Colatine is her undoing. Her ignorance of the logic of truth and beauty, which Shakespeare articulates in the Sonnet sequence to the Mistress, limits her to the illiteracy of ‘looks’ (beauty) without the capacity to read what is in ‘learned books’ (truth).
          Having railed against night for the last few stanzas, Lucrece now turns to defend Colatine against any attribution of blame. She sums up her fatal confusion by exonerating him completely.

        ‘…Tarquin wronged me, I Colatine’. (819)

          Her ‘holy wedlock vow’ (809) has blinded her to the correct allocation of fault. King Lucius Tarquinius’ excessive pride, and murderous deeds, led to Colatine’s excessive pride over Lucrece and his taunting of Tarquin with a wife ‘too good for a prince’. Provoked, Tarquin goes mad with desire and rapes Lucrece. And, to complete the circle, her inability to anticipate the crime is a direct consequence of her obedience to Colatine’s possessiveness.
          Shakespeare shows, in his choice of words for Lucrece, her ignorance of the logic of truth and beauty or words and sensations, and her suppression of her deepest intuitions.

    ‘Let my good name, that senseless reputation,
    For Colatine’s dear love be kept unspotted:
    If that be made a theme for disputation,
    The branches of another root are rotted;
    And undeserv’d reproach to him allotted,
        That is as clear from this attaint of mine
        As I ere this was pure to Colatine. (820-6)

          Lucrece intuitively appreciates that Colatine bears some of the blame, yet her ‘good name’ will lead her to sacrifice herself for Colatine’s reputation. Her ‘good name’ is a ‘senseless reputation’ because it is based not on the natural logic of truth and beauty, but on the convention of ‘holy wedlock’. Colatine’s ‘dear’ love has to be ‘kept unspotted’ not because it is precious but because it is costly. At least twice in the Sonnets Shakespeare when critiquing idealism uses the word ‘dear’ with the meaning of ‘costly’.
          Lucrece’s doubt surfaces again in the suggestion that Colatine’s dear love might be a ‘theme for disputation’. She counters such thoughts with a metaphor from Nature. Instead of shifting the blame elsewhere, however, it merely casts deeper doubt on her faith in Colatine. The ‘undeserv’d reproach’, which leaks from her attempts to exonerate Colatine, leads her to a greater depth of self-rebuke. Her abjectness is a logical consequence of her previously blind obedience to his pride.
          Her troubled insecurity about Colatine’s and her own guilt inclines her to lay all the blame on Tarquin again.

    Yet am I guilty of thy Honour’s wrack;
    Yet for thy Honour did I entertain him,
    Coming from thee I could not put him back,
    For it had been dishonour to disdain him,
    Besides of weariness he did complain him,
        And talk’d of Virtue (O unlook’d-for evil,)
        When Virtue is profan’d in such a Devil! (841-7)

          The triple litany on ‘honour’ and the double litany on ‘virtue’ are an involuntary confession of the true source of the ‘evil’. Colatine’s pride, which Lucrece sees as his honour and her virtue, leads to a consequence she does not anticipate, but for which Tarquin is characterised as the ‘devil’. Lucrece’s possession by male-based honour and virtue voids her priority as woman. Shakespeare uses the word ‘wrack’ again in sonnet 126, where the ‘sovereign mistress over wrack’ has control over the immature male who is responsible for the type of illogicalities Lucrece takes upon herself.
          Shakespeare, having made Lucrece unwittingly state her illogical rationale for attributing blame solely to Tarquin, has her present the argument that should lead her to appreciate the error of her judgment. For four stanzas she extemporises on Nature and the increase argument without realising that the examples she uses hold the key to resolving her logical dilemma. As a female, she intuitively evokes natural logic but as a wife possessed by a proud husband she is unable to access its implications.

    ‘Why should the worm intrude the maiden bud?
    Or hateful Cuckoo’s hatch in Sparrows’ nests?
    Or Toads infect fair founts with venom mud?
    Or tyrant folly lurk in gentle breasts?
    Or Kings be breakers of their own behests?
        But no perfection is so absolute
        That some impurity doth not pollute. (848-54)

          Lucrece’s belief in her own ‘perfection’, which has been fostered by Colatine, has been so ‘absolute’ that her appreciation of Nature, and of human nature, is awry. She vilifies aspects of Nature, which in the natural context are simply a part of life. Her inability to anticipate the tyranny of kings arises from the same over-dependency on an idealised view of life. Shakespeare uses Lucrece to express his critique of the excessive idealism of the Churches and politics of his day.
          The mention of ‘Kings’ in line 852 recalls the combined reference to ‘a God, a King’ in line 601. Because the next two stanzas have no direct relation to a particular character in the poem, it is tempting to read them as a rejoinder to Lucrece’s lack of empathy with the forces of Nature in the previous stanza.

    ‘The aged man that coffers up his gold,
    Is plagu’d with cramps, and gouts, and painful fits,
    And scarce hath eyes his treasure to behold,
    But like still pining Tantalus he sits,
    And useless barns the harvest of his wits:
        Having no other pleasure of his gain,
        But torment that it cannot cure his pain.

    ‘So then he hath it when he cannot use it,
    And leaves it to be master’d by his young
    :
    Who in their pride do presently abuse it;
    Their father was too weak, and they too strong
    To hold their cursed-blessed Fortune long.
        The sweets we wish for, turn to loathed sours,
        Even in the moment that we call them ours. (855-68)

          In the context of Shakespeare’s critique of excessive idealism, the ‘aged man’ who useless barns the harvest of his ‘wits’ and leaves it to be mastered by his ‘young’may be a parody of the relationship between a heaven-bound God and Christ his earth-bound son. The promised ‘sweets’ turn to ‘loathed sours’ when the elevated ideal fails to deliver on its promises.
          Lucrece again draws unfair comparisons from Nature to bolster the contradictions in her proud virtue.

    ‘Unruly blasts wait on the tender spring,
    Unwholesome weeds take root with precious flowers,
    The Adder hisses where the sweet birds sing,
    What Virtue breeds Iniquity devours:
    We have no good that we can say is ours,
        But ill annexed opportunity
        Or kills life, or else his quality. (869-75)

          The idealism ‘virtue breeds’ leads logically to ‘iniquity’. This is a constant theme in the sonnets to the Master Mistress and in the plays. The inversion of breeding from its natural role in life to the fostering of virtue points to the corruption of natural logic in the Christian myth and in the relation of Colatine and Lucrece.
          Instead of appreciating the implications of her irrational attitude toward Nature, because of her ingrained self regard, Lucrece distances the inconsistencies by expiating on an abstract entity she calls opportunity. Because she is unable to seriously address Colatine’s guilt and her own gullibility, Shakespeare has her deliver a self-addressed sermon based in self-pity. She presents a litany of complaints that ironically reflect her over-dependency on the suppressive values of traditional male gods.

    ‘O opportunity thy guilt is great, (876)

        ‘Sits sin to seize the souls that wander by him. (882)

    ‘Thou mak’st the vestal violate her oath, (883)

        ‘The poor, lame, blind, halt, creep, cry out for thee, (902)

    ‘When Truth and Virtue have to do with thee,
    A thousand crosses keep them from thy aid: (911-2)

    ‘An accessory by thine inclination.
        To all sins past and all that are to come,
        From the creation to the general doom. (922-4)

          Lucrece’s language is replete with Christian imagery ironically implicating the inadequacies of biblical theology in the question of opportunity.
          Shakespeare now puts into Lucrece’s mouth 12 stanzas on time. Having incorrectly identified night, Nature and opportunity as the cause of her grief Lucrece turns to the favourite abstraction of those who would obviate the natural logic of life. Shakespeare has her project her culpability, and the fault of king, god and Colatine, onto the abstraction time, which she calls the ‘servant opportunity’ (932). She avoids facing the intuition of her true eye and its natural logic by using the classic conceit of time as a disingenuous distraction.

    ‘Mis-shapen time, copesmate of ugly night,

    Why hath thy servant opportunity
    Betray’d the hours thou gav’st me to repose? (925-33)

          In sonnet 126 Shakespeare affirms the priority of Nature over time, the logic of which he emphasises throughout the sequence to the Master Mistress. The temporal structure in the Sonnets is based on 12 groups of 12 sonnets beginning at sonnet 10 and ending at sonnet 153. The positioning of the structure for time within the bounds of the 154 sonnets indicates the subservience of time to Nature.
          Lucrece, in imitation of inadequate philosophies which consider time the determiner of all things (along with God), berates time both for not fulfilling its duty as the protector of innocents such as herself, and for its perpetration of the evils that have afflict humankind. The ambivalence is symptomatic of her illogical attitude to the forces of life. She calls time,

    Eater of youth, false slave to false delight:
    Base watch of woes, sin’s pack horse, virtue’s snare
    . (927-8)

          But within a few lines she says,

    Time’s glory is to calm contending Kings,
    To unmask falsehood, and bring truth to light,

    To wrong the wronger till he render right, (939-43)

          Although Lucrece has just been cruelly raped, Shakespeare has her address immediately the consequences of being a woman who has foregone her birthright natural logic under the behest of a system dominated by proud males. He begins by having her recite a litany of excuses that prevent her from recovering her true relationship to Nature. From her mouth issue all the inconsistencies about Nature, truth and beauty typical of overwrought idealism. All these issues are given their definitive redress in the Sonnets.
          Throughout the Sonnets the importance of the ‘content’ of Shakespeare’s philosophy is prioritised over the book in which it is written. In 1594, he was already aware of the priority of content over book.

    ‘To blot old books and alter their contents, (948)

          Shakespeare again has Lucrece paraphrase the increase argument in terms of her crazed logic.

    ‘To show the beldam daughters of her daughter,
    To make the child a man, the man a child,
    To slay the tiger that doth live by slaughter,
    To tame the Unicorn and Lion wild,
    To mock the subtle in themselves beguil’d,
        To cheer the Ploughman with increaseful crops,
        And waste huge stones with little water drops. (953-9)

          Lucrece asks time ‘thou ceaseless lackey to Eternity’ (967), to ‘devise extremes beyond extremity’ (969) to punish Tarquin, and she prays,

    ‘O time thou tutor both to good and bad,
    Teach me to curse him that thou taught’st this ill: (995-6)

          She turns to time to acquire the evil she has experienced at the hands of Tarquin without appreciating that time is an abstract concept. Because she is sundered from her natural priority over the male and so her innate ability to determine good from bad she ironically resorts to asking time to teach her those skills.
          To complete her lament Lucrece addresses the fundamental issue of the poem. The excessive pride of Lucius Tarquinius was identified as the source of all the events that followed. The poem will end with the overthrow of kingly rule, and its replacement with a form of shared responsibility. Lucrece expresses Shakespeare’s constant theme throughout the plays regarding the abrogation of degrees of responsibility.

    The baser is he, coming from a King,
    To shame his hope with deeds degenerate,
    The mightier man the mightier is the thing
    That makes him honour’d, or begets him hate:
    For greatest scandal waits on greatest state.
        The Moon being clouded presently is mist,
        But little stars hide them when they list. (1002-8)

          But, in the end Lucrece realises that her whole lament has been a ‘straw argument’ or one that has not addressed the real issue. Because she does not understand the logic of Nature and her position as a woman in the priorities of Nature, her only recourse is to take her life. The extremity of her act is equivalent to the distance she is removed from the philosophy Shakespeare is presenting through the agency of the poem.

    Out idle words, servants to shallow fools,
    Unprofitable sounds,weak arbitrators,
    Busy yourselves in skill-contending schools
    ,
    Debate where leisure serves with dull debaters:
    To trembling Clients be you mediators,
        For me, I force not argument a straw,
        Since that my case is past the help of law.

    In vain I rail at opportunity,
    At time, at Tarquin, at uncheerful night
    ;
    In vain I cavil with my infamy,
    In vain I spurn at my confirm’d despite,
    This helpless smoke of words doth me no right:
        The remedy indeed to do me good
        Is to let forth my foul defiled blood. (1016-29)

          Lucrece, unable to find a knife to end her life returns to her pathetic lament. The misconceptions she has lived under surface again as a bulwark against the reality she dimly perceived in her long rumination.

    ‘In vain’ (quoth she) ‘I live, and seek in vain
    Some happy mean to end a hapless life.
    I fear’d by Tarquin’s falchion to be slain,
    Yet for the self same purpose seek a knife;
    But when I fear’d I was a loyal wife.
        So am I now, O no, that cannot be,
        Of that true type hath Tarquin rifled me. (1044-50)

          Her costly obedience to Colatine’s possessive pride, which has led to her rape, produces a bastard of increase.

    Well well, dear Colatine, thou shalt not know
    The stained taste of violated troth:
    I will not wrong thy true affection so,
    To flatter thee with an infringed oath.
    This bastard graff shall never come to growth,
        He shall not boast who did thy stock pollute,
        That thou art doting father of his fruit. (1058-64)

          Typical of the privileged ‘truth’ that falsifies the conditions for correctly determining fault and excuses, Lucrece believes that blaming Tarquin will purge her ‘tongue’ and return her to her original pure state. Her delusion is complete.

    I will not poison thee with my attaint,
    Nor fold my fault in cleanly coin’d excuses,
    My sable ground of sin I will not paint,
    To hide the truth of this false night’s abuses.
    My tongue shall utter all, mine eye like sluices,
        As from the mountain spring that feeds a dale,
        Shall gush pure streams to purge my impure tale’. (1072-8)

          A stanza later she unwittingly re-identifies the logical condition that would resolve her difficulties as a female who has had her priority denied by a possessive husband. She is fearful of the ‘eyes’ that seek to reveal to her the light of natural logic.

    Revealing day through every cranny spies,
    And seems to point her out where she sits weeping,
    To whom she sobbing speaks, ‘O eye of eyes,
    Why pry’st thou through my window: leave thy peeping,
    Mock with thy tickling beams, eyes that are sleeping;
        Brand not my forehead with thy piercing light,
        For day hath naught to do what’s done by night’. (1086-92)

          Lucrece’s divorce from Nature leads her to ‘cavil’ with ‘everything she sees’ (1093). Her blindness to the logic of the eyes makes things seem vexatious. Her lament over the next few stanzas concludes with another statement that indicates her remove from natural judgment. She finds it difficult to accept that all men are capable of evil and that all beasts are capable of gentleness.

        ‘Since men prove beasts, let beasts bear gentle minds’. (1148)

          Lucrece’s inclination to take her life raises the quandary as to whether living or dying would be better. Should she live in shame, or be reproached for committing suicide.

    So with her self is she in mutiny,
        To live or die which of the twain were better,
        When life is sham’d and death reproach’s debtor. (1153-5)

          Lucrece then turns her concern to the relation of soul and body. When she attempts to resolve the mutiny, Shakespeare demonstrates through her that the traditional division of the ‘body’ and ‘soul’ is the cause of all her agonising. By giving unnatural priority to her ‘soul’ over her ‘body’, she draws the illogical conclusion that the rape of her body irredeemably corrupts her soul. The argument of the poem, and the argument of the Sonnets and plays, is that the corruption is due to the over-idealisation of an imaginary faculty of the human mind, called the soul, and leads to the corruption of the bodily relation to Nature through rape.
          For Lucrece, the rape has polluted the supposed a priori purity of the soul. Because both her body and soul, rather than one or the other, are ‘swallowed in confusion’ she feels justified in taking her life.

    ‘To kill my self’, quoth she, ‘alack what were it,
    But with my body my poor soul’s pollution?
    They that lose half with greater patience bear it,
    Than they whose whole is swallowed in confusion.
    That mother tries a merciless conclusion,
        Who having two sweet babes, when death takes one,
        Will slay the other, and be nurse to none
    . (1156-62)

          Shakespeare illustrates Lucrece’s perversion of natural logic in her explanation that a mother who loses one baby will feel driven to slay the other and so nurse none. Lucrece’s capacity to entertain the idea, that a mother might kill her child to recover her equanimity, is indicative of her divorce from her natural status as a female. In one stanza Shakespeare presents the illogicality of prioritising the soul over the body in Platonic/Christian thought and, its logical counterpart, the inversion of the natural relation of female and male out of Nature.
          The next stanza identifies the source of the error precisely. The divine male and his mortal representative Colatine are exonerated by Lucrece from the crime for which they are logically responsible.

    ‘My body or my soul which was the dearer?
    When the one pure, the other made divine,
    Whose love of either to myself was nearer,
    When both were kept for Heaven and Colatine:
    Ay me, the Bark pill’d from the lofty Pine,
        His leaves will wither, and his sap decay
    ,
        So must my soul her bark being pill’d away. (1163-9)

          Again, the corruption of Lucrece’s mind, with its belief that the divinity of the soul can only be corrupted by the defilement of the body, prevents her from seeing the role in her rape of the king Tarquinius and Colatine’s possessive pride. The metaphor of the tree that dies because it loses its bark inverts the natural relation of life in which the sap and leaves are the fresh forces of life and the bark the outer covering, more like the role of the imaginary soul of the mind.
          Since her ‘sacred temple’ is ‘spotted’ (1172), Lucrece decides it would not be ‘impiety’ to ‘make some hole, through which I may convey this troubled soul’ (1175-6). Where she should be questioning the idea of ‘soul’ that has given rise to her possession and ignorance, her decision to commit suicide seeks to free her ‘soul’.
          But she will wait until she tells Colatine of her rape to ensure he takes ‘revenge’ (1180) on Tarquin. She wants Tarquin to be ‘used’ (1195) like her, little realising that her desire for revenge on Tarquin is partially misplaced. Colatine will admit his complicity in the crime by not heeding his wife’s dying wish. He does not carry out her desire to have Tarquin killed, but will rather simply banish him.
          Lucrece emphasises her sundering from her natural priority over the male by inverting the expectations for the rebirth of her ‘honour’. In a stanza full of the expectation of honour she applies the terms of increase to the vain prospect of being honoured for her suicide. The Phoenix and the Turtle points up the irony even more poignantly when the deluded birds are mocked for their expectation of immortality without posterity.

    ‘My Honour I’ll bequeath unto the knife
    That wounds my body so dishonoured,
    ’Tis Honour to deprive dishonour’d life,
    The one will live, the other being dead.
    So of shame’s ashes shall my Fame be bred,
        For in my death I murder shameful scorn,
        My shame so dead, mine honour is new born. (1184-90)

          Lucrece’s blind faith in her husband and his values leads her to a concluding comment of self-deceit.

        ‘Thou dead, both die, and both shall victors be’. (1211)

          When Lucrece calls her maid, true to their ‘gentle sex’ (1237) and despite the maid’s inferiority, they weep together. The maid’s show of ‘modesty’ (1220) toward her mistress, though, belies a sinister dimension in women’s subservience to men.

    For men have marble, women waxen minds,
    And therefore are they form’d as marble will,
    The weak oppress’d, th’impression of strange kinds
    Is form’d in them by force, by fraud, or skill.
    Then call them not the Authors of their ill,
        No more than wax shall be accounted evil,
        Wherein is stamp’d the semblance of a Devil. (1240-46)

          Shakespeare clearly identifies the male as the instigator and perpetrator of the ill to which women, through a gentler disposition, succumb. Male pride and possession has its counterpart in female servility.

    Their smoothness; like goodly champaign plain,
    Lays open all the little worms that creep,
    In men as in a rough-grown grove remain.
    Cave-keeping evils that obscurely sleep.
    Through crystal walls each little mote will peep,
        Though men can cover crimes with bold stern looks,
        Poor women’s faces are their own faults books
    . (1247-53)

          Lucrece’s inability to detect Tarquin’s intent and her incapacity to see through her husband’s ‘honour’ is attributed to the difficulty women have in hiding their ‘cave keeping evils’. The pride of Colatine and the other nobles is barely recognised as the source of Lucrece’s shame.

        With men’s abuses, Those proud Lords to blame,
        Make weak made women tenants to their shame. (1259-60)

          But Lucrece is conscious only of Tarquin’s assault, and the possibility that her death may ‘do her husband wrong’ (1264). She is not able to see the larger pattern of blame.
          Unable to share her grief with her maid she asks her to bring paper, pen and ink, and then fetch one of her husband’s men. When she tries to write, her inarticulateness before her husband’s pride causes a combat of ‘conceit and grief ’ (1298) in her will. Because she cannot articulate her thoughts she sends a perfunctory note hoping instead to use the only form of communication she has learnt to wield with confidence in his presence, the power of emotions.

    Here folds she up the tenure of her woe,
    Her certain sorrow writ uncertainly,
    By this short Schedule Colatine may know
    Her grief, but not her grief ’s true quality,
    She dares not thereof make discovery,
        Lest he should hold it her own gross abuse
    ,
        Ere she with blood had stain’d her stain’d excuse. (1310-16)

          Lucrece reveals the level of distrust between her and Colatine because of the pride and honour which rules their relationship. Intuitively she cannot trust a husband who was prepared to a wager his complete trust in her. Her resort to emotions will hide her inadequacy with ‘words’ (1323). In Lucrece Shakespeare was already exploring the logical relation between sensations and words or beauty and truth as they were to be called definitively in the Sonnets.
          Lucrece’s unwillingness to use words to articulate her thoughts even leads her to round on the ‘homely villain’ who takes her letter to Colatine.

    The homely villain cur’sies to her low,
    And blushing on her with a steadfast eye,
    Receives the scroll without or yea or no,
    And forth with bashful innocence doth hie.
    But they whose guilt within their bosoms lie,
        Imagine every eye beholds their blame
    ,
        For Lucrece thought, he blush’d to see her shame. (1338-44)

          Not only does Lucrece falsely think the ‘villain’ sensed her shame, she makes a mockery of her own letter to Colatine. How can she expect to convince Colatine of her innocence and her faith in him if she cannot hide her shame from a servant? Worse, she is immediately suspicious of a ‘harmless’ creature (1347) while sustaining her unnatural trust in kings and lords.
          When Lucrece pauses for a ‘means to mourn some newer way’ (1365), she turns to a painting of Troy. Shakespeare devotes 31 stanzas of his poem to an ancient story of mythological dimensions to emphasise the mythic elements in his version of the rape of Lucrece. The characters in the poem resemble the characters in the painting because they are logically removed from the natural dynamic of life.
          In the ‘skillful painting’ (1367) by the ‘conceited Painter’ (1371) Shakespeare illustrates the logical relation between Nature and art. He demonstrates how Lucrece’s understanding of the world is like a work of art because like a work of art it is based on conceits and illusions. Her inability to correctly determine the basis of fault, because her values are disconnected from natural logic, corresponds to the difference between Shakespeare’s awareness that myth presents the logical conditions for the operations of the mind in relation to Nature, but cannot be a substitute for the natural logic of life.
          The painting of ‘Priam’s Troy’ embodies a fundamental conceit.

    A thousand lamentable objects there,
    In scorn of Nature,Art gave liveless life. (1373-4)

          At the beginning of the description of the painting, Shakespeare states his philosophic position. If art scorns Nature, then art will only convey ‘liveless life’. Art can be lifelike (editors incorrectly change the liveless to lifeless) through imitation but it can only be alive if it respects the logic of the relation between Nature and art.
          In the Sonnets, this insight provides the pivotal structural point in the presentation of natural logic. The overall structure of the Sonnets as Nature, with its division into female and male sequences and the consequent increase argument of the first 14 sonnets, is logically prior to truth and beauty or any form of expression. Shakespeare presents in Lucrece not only a story that has mythic implications but a story that corrects the inconsistencies of traditional mythologies by incorporating a painting in which the mythological conceits are at odds with natural logic. The inclusion of Lucrece’s musings before the image of Troy incorporates an essential component of Shakespeare’s logic and not, as many think, an extraneous addition to give his story the added benefit of a famous Homeric legend.
          As Lucrece examines the painting she observes the painter’s skill at evoking sentiment from a weeping wife and traditional types such as ‘great commanders’ (1387) and ‘heartless peasants’ (1392). She notes the difference between Ajax, with his ‘blunt rage and rigour’, and ‘sly Ulysses’ whose ‘mild glance…show’d deep regard and smiling government’ (1399-1400). Ulysses speech in Troilus and Cressida on degrees of responsibility expresses the values Tarquinius, Colatine, Tarquin, and consequently Lucrece, disregard.
          The artistic effect, despite its skill, cannot help but reveal its artificial nature.

    For much imaginary work was there,
    Conceit deceitful, so compact so kind,
    That for Achilles’ image stood his spear
    Gripp’d in an Armed hand, himself behind
    Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind,
        A hand, a foot, a face, a leg, a head
        Stood for the whole to be imagined. (1422-8)

          But Lucrece is not concerned with the implications of the picture as a whole. She has not been allowed to develop an understanding that would make sense of the imagery she admires. Instead she seeks out a face ‘where all distress is steld’ (1444). She sees Hecuba, Priam’s wife, affected by ‘time’s ruin, beauty’s wrack’ (1451). Her response echoes her own frustration at not being able to easily express herself in words to her husband.

    On this sad shadow Lucrece spends her eyes,
    And shapes her sorrow to the Beldam’s woes,
    Who nothing wants to answer her but cries,
    And bitter words to ban her cruel Foes;
    The Painter was no God to lend her those,
        And therefore Lucrece swears he did her wrong,
        To give her so much grief, and not a tongue. (1457-63)

          Lucrece offers not only to speak on Hecuba’s behalf to ‘rail on Pyrrhus’, (1467) who wounded Priam, but to use her knife to scratch out the eyes of all the Greeks. In her rash judgment of the situation she blames Helen’s ‘lust’ for the temptation of ‘fond Paris’ (1473). Shakespeare has her ironically state the logic of her mythic crisis when she connects Helen’s sexual ‘eye’ with the death of increase.

    ‘Thy eye kindled the fire that burneth here,
        And here in Troy for trespass of thine eye,
        The Sire, the son, the Dame and daughter die. (1475-7)

          In an inversion of her own plight, where she was unable to recognise that a public plague had became her private woe, she questions why Helen’s private pleasure should become a public plague. Ironically, she asks that ‘guiltless souls be freed from guilty woe’ (1482) when one person is to blame.

        ‘For one’s offence why should so many fall?
        To plague a private sin in general. (1483-4)

          But then in an ironical twist she includes Priam in the pattern of blame. The desire to accuse just one for the fault of many cannot be sustained in the face of the disaster for the families of Troy.

    And one man’s lust these many lives confounds.
        Had doting Priam check’d his son’s desire,
        Troy had been bright with Fame, and not with fire’. (1489-91)

          Once she begins to weep for ‘Troy’s painted woes’ (1492), she cannot stop the impetus of her desire to ‘lend(s) them words’ and ‘borrow’ (1498) their looks to her own ends, despite the evidence to the contrary. Like any person sundered from their natural logic, her reasoning cannot be logical but is led by the distortion of her understanding.
          Again, rather than face the possibility of evil in kings and gods, she projects onto the story of Sinon (1501-68) her newborn awareness of deceit. The confusion of ‘red’ and ‘pale’ in his face emphasises her previous inability to determine the truth of her own situation.

    In him the Painter labour’d with his skill
    To hide deceit, and give the harmless show
    An humble gait, calm looks, eyes wailing still,
    A brow unbent that seem’d to welcome woe,
    Cheeks neither red, nor pale, but mingled so,
        That blushing red, no guilty instance gave,
        Nor ashy pale, the fear that false hearts have. (1506-12)

          The lengthy account of Sinon’s relation to Priam and the Trojans expresses the depth of irony in the deception that Lucrece was subjected to by Tarquin and Colatine.

    But like a constant and confirmed Devil,
    He entertain’d a show, so seeming just,
    And therein so ensconc’d his secret evil,
    That Jealousy itself could not mistrust,
    False creeping
    Craft and Perjury should thrust
        Into so bright a day, such blackfac’d storms,
        Or blot with Hell-born sin such Saint-like forms. (1513-9)

          Now that Lucrece has been woken to the possibility of evil in any person, she can admire the ‘well-skill’d workman’ able to paint a face of seeming innocence for a character as ‘perjur’d’ as Sinon. And, more significantly, she is aware of the stupidity of innocence exhibited by ‘the credulous old Priam’, who can believe any ‘enchanting story’.

    The well-skilled workman this mild Image drew
    For perjur’d Sinon, whose enchanting story
    The credulous old Priam after slew.
    Whose words like wildfire burnt the shining glory
    Of rich built Ilion, that the skies were sorry.
        And little stars shot from their fixed places,
        When their glass fell, wherein they viewed their faces. (1520-6)

          The internal collapse of the Trojan hierarchy, epitomised by the stupidity of King Priam, was triggered by the ‘words’ of Sinon. The narcissistic mirror of self-deceit that was ‘rich-built Ilion’ shot the stars inevitably from their ‘fixed places’. Sonnet 14 is explicit in ruling out an astrology based on the fixed stars because they do not have the correct logical multiplicity to account for the range of truth and beauty exhibited by human beings. Shakespeare, in 1594, is already aware of the logical conditions for a consistent philosophy, and so a means to provide a consistent account of human nature not subject to the ‘credulousness’ of old Priam.
          Lucrece’s divorce from the ‘truth’ leads her to ‘chide’ the painter for representing a mind so ‘ill’ in a form so ‘fair’. She projects her inability to see beyond appearances onto the artist who merely represents Sinon for greater effect.

    This picture she advisedly perus’d,
    And chid the Painter for his wondrous skill:
    Saving, some shape in Sinon’s was abus’d.
    So fair a form lodg’d not a mind so ill,
    And still on him she gaz’d, and gazing still,
        Such signs of truth in his plain face she spied,
        That she concludes, the Picture was belied. (1527-33)

          Because she does not appreciate the logic of truth and beauty, Lucrece is unable to do more than exercise the prejudices fostered in her by her idealising husband.

                                      ‘it cannot be, I find,
    But such a face should bear a wicked mind. (1539-40)

    ‘To me came Tarquin armed to beguild
    With outward honesty, but yet defil’d
        With inward vice
    , As Priam him did cherish:
        So did I Tarquin, so my Troy did perish. (1544-7)

          Again all the blame is shifted to Tarquin, and not to the idealised expectations of Priam, or of her husband Colatine.

    ‘Look, how list’ning Priam wets his eyes,
    To see those borrow’d tears that Sinon sheds,
    Priam why art thou old, yet not so wise? (1548-50)

          Lucrece’s confusion between the guilt of Sinon and her ingrained respect for authority leads her to sense the inadequacies in Priam but not be able to articulate them. Shakespeare then has her reiterate the relation between the inconsistencies in her understanding of the world and the inconsistencies of the biblical worldview if taken literally.

    ‘Such devils steal effects from lightless Hell,
    For Sinon in his fire doth quake with cold,
    And in that cold hot burning fire doth dwell,
    These contraries such unity doth hold,
    Only to flatter fools, and make them bold,
        So Priam’s trust false Sinon’s tears doth flatter,
        That he finds means to burn his Troy with water’. (1555-61)

          Shakespeare sardonically represents the illogicality of Lucrece’s complaint when she physically attacks the painting to exact revenge on Sinon (1564). The extended episode of the Trojan painting has been constructed to point out the contradictions in idealist expectations, whether Roman or biblical. Because Lucrece has not advanced her understanding of the culpability of Colatine, the ‘time’ she has spent in front of the painting does not ‘cure’ her ‘dolour’ (1581-2).
          Appropriately, her thoughts are interrupted by the return of Colatine and his friends. He finds her dressed for ‘mourning’ (1585) but is initially unable to ask the cause of her terrible grief. When he does ask, she in turn has difficulty finding ‘words’ (1605 and 1610) to express her feelings. When she does find a ‘few words’ because her ‘woes’ are more than ‘words’ can express, she briefly recounts the events of the night before and adds her reasons for not resisting.

    ‘Mine enemy was strong, my poor self weak,
    (And far the weaker with so strong a fear)
    My bloody Judge forbod my tongue to speak,
    No rightful plea might plead for justice there.
    His scarlet Lust came evidence to swear
        That my poor beauty had purloin’d his eyes,
        And when the Judge is robb’d, the prisoner dies. (1646-52)

          Throughout the poem, Shakespeare has made it clear that Lucrece’s inability to anticipate Tarquin’s intentions and her unwillingness to heed the signs of Colatine’s blame is the cause of her muteness and defenselessness. Because the logical problem has been the over-idealisation of human propensities, Tarquin as the representative of the imperial King is godlike in his role as Lucrece’s ‘Judge’. He epitomises the role of a God who, when tripped into a logical reaction to idealised claims, becomes evil. Shakespeare’s argument against the excesses of idealism is a general one of which the poem represents a particular instance.
          The next stanza emphasises the critique of Christian conceits. Lucrece’s representation of her ‘mind’ as ‘immaculate and spotless’ is a parody on the Virgin Mary.

    ‘O teach me how to make mine own excuse,
    Or (at the least) this refuge let me find,
    Though my gross blood be stain’d with this abuse,
    Immaculate, and spotless is my mind,
    That was not forc’d, that never was inclin’d
        To accessory yieldings, but still pure
        Doth in her poison’d closet yet endure’. (1653-9)

          Having allowed Lucrece to identify the conceit that causes her rape, Shakespeare immediately states the true reason for her loss. He identifies Colatine as the ‘hopeless Merchant of this loss’ (1660). The ‘pride’ (1669), that causes his guilt and grief, ‘damm’d’ up his ‘voice’ (1661). Lucrece notices his ‘untimely frenzy’ but, typically, misinterprets it as deep ‘sorrow’.

    Which speechless woe of his poor she attendeth,
    And his untimely frenzy thus awaketh,
    ‘Dear Lord, thy sorrow to my sorrow lendeth
    Another power…’ (1674-7)

          Again there are echoes of Shakespeare’s critique of biblical contradictions with Lucrece’s address to her ‘Lord’ and its attendant ‘sorrow’.
          Ironically, Lucrece calls on Colatine’s friends to act as ‘knights’ who will ‘chase injustice with revengeful arms’ (1693-4) and put Tarquin to death. She has little idea that they will not carry out the oaths of their ‘knighthood’ because effectively Tarquin was part of the trial by chastity of which they are all guilty. She is still unable to see the true nature of the crime.

    ‘What is the quality of my offence
    Being constrain’d with dreadful circumstance?
    May my pure mind with foul act dispense,
    My low declined Honour to advance?
    May any terms acquit me from this chance?
        The poisoned fountain clears itself again,
        And why not I from this compelled stain?’ (1702-8)

          Lucrece’s sense of ‘honour’ is tied to her conceit that her fate will be remembered hereafter. Unfortunately for her it will be for opposing reasons. Once the idealist reading of the poem is rejected because it is inadequate as a representation of the Poet’s insights, she will be seen as Colatine’s unfortunate dupe, estranged from her natural rights as a woman.
          She reveals Tarquin’s name to the assembled lords and then plunges a knife into her breast. With ‘contrite sighs’ she bequeaths her soul to the clouds.

    Even here she sheathed in her harmless breast
    A harmful knife, that thence her soul unsheathed,
    That blow did bail it from the deep unrest
    Of that polluted prison, where it breathed:
    Her contrite sighs unto the clouds bequeathed
        Her winged sprite, and through her wounds doth fly
        Live’s lasting date, from cancell’d destiny. (1723-9)

          By bequeathing her soul to the ‘clouds’, Lucrece acknowledges the darker consequences of ‘self-slaughter’ (1733), and the inherent illogicality of her conceits.
          Lucretius, her father, then throws himself on her body as, after Brutus removes the knife, her blood forms a black, red and watery pool (1732-50). Lucretius grief at the death of his daughter brings not the expected concern about honour, pride, or the fate of her soul, but a lament on the theme of increase.

    ‘Daughter, dear daughter’, old Lucretius cries,
    That life was mine which thou hast here deprived,
    If in the child the father’s image lies,
    Where shall I live now Lucrece is unlived?
    Thou wast not to this end from me derived.
        If children predecease progenitors,
        We are their offspring and they none of ours.

    ‘Poor broken glass, I often did behold
    In thy sweet semblance,my old age new-born,
    But now that fair fresh mirror dim and old
    Shows me a bare bon’d death by time out-worn.
    O from thy cheeks my image thou hast torn,
        And shiver’d all the beauty of my glass,
        That I no more can see what once I was.

    ‘O time cease thou thy course and last no longer,
    If they surcease to be that should survive:
    Shall rotten death make conquest of the stronger,
    And leave the foultring feeble souls alive?
    The old Bees die, the young possess their hive,
        Then live sweet Lucrece, live again and see
        Thy father die, and not thy father thee
    ’. (1751-71)

          Shakespeare has Lucretius deliver the increase argument because as the father he more keenly recognises, even if for selfish reasons, the logical priority of increase over all other conditions for life. He calls on time to ‘last no longer’, so that all can perish. In sonnet 11, Shakespeare gives the definitive form of the argument when he says that the whole world would be done away if all ceased to increase. The immediacy of death also brings the conceit about souls down to earth when death might leave the ‘feeble souls alive’.
          Colatine in turn lies on her body but finds his ‘inward soul’ incapable of working his tongue to say ‘heart-easing words’ (1782). His ‘weak words’ are not ‘pronounced plain’ (1784-6). He mutters vengeance on Tarquin but seems unable to reflect on his contribution to the tragedy.
          Then, in the most revealing exchange of the whole poem, Lucretius and Colatine fight for the possession of dead Lucrece. In the plays, Shakespeare has Desdemona and Cordelia state the increase proposition when they tell their fathers that they owe their love half to them and half to their husbands. The blindness of Othello and Lear to natural logic is the cause of the ensuing tragedy. In Lucrece, father and husband demonstrate the logical error for themselves.

        Then son and father weep with equal strife
        Who should weep most for daughter or for wife.

    Then one doth call her his, the other his,
    Yet neither may possess the claim they lay.
    The father says, ‘she’s mine’, ‘O mine she is’
    Replies her husband, ‘do not take away
    My sorrow’s interest, let no mourner say
        He weeps for her, for she was only mine,
        And only must be wail’d by Colatine
    ’.

    ‘O’, quoth Lucretius, ‘I did give that life
    Which she too early and too late hath spill’d’.
    ‘Woe. Woe’, quoth Colatine, ‘she was my wife,
    I owed her
    , and ’tis mine that she hath kill’d’.
    ‘My daughter’ and ‘my wife’ with clamours fill’d
        The dispers’d air, who holding Lucrece’s life
        Answer’d their cries, ‘my daughter’ and ‘my wife’. (1791-1806)

          Lucretius’ late reversion to the basic logic of life and his fight with Colatine for the ‘possessive ownership’ of Lucrece, bring to bear on the poem the natural logic that provides Shakespeare with his overview of the drama. His overview contextualises the excessive pride of Lucius Tarquinius and the murder of his father-in-law, the idealised selfishness of Colatine and Tarquin, with its damning consequences in the repression of Lucrece’s female intuitions under honour, virtue, and holy wedlock. The locks that Tarquin breaks are the locks that Colatine has imposed on her natural priority as a female.
          Brutus, who removed the offending knife/penis from Lucrece, reveals circumspection not expected of one who has been considered a fool by his noble friends. He realises that the fight over the body of Lucrece ‘emulates’ the conditions that caused her death. He calls on Colatine not to increase his woe by furthering the conceit that gave rise to it.

        ‘Thy wretched wife mistook the matter so,
        To slay her self that should have slain her Foe. (1826-7)

          But even Brutus’ insight is limited by the constraints in his Roman culture. He appeals to the ‘courageous Roman’ in Colatine to rouse with him the ‘Roman Gods’ (1831) and take the body of Lucrece to the Capitol where her ‘chaste blood’, the ‘heaven’s fair sun that breeds the fat earth’s store’, and by ‘all our country rights in Rome’ to revenge Lucrece’s wrongs ‘by this bloody knife’.

    Now by that Capitol that we adore,
    And by this chaste blood so unjustly stained,
    By heaven’s fair sun that breeds the fat earth’s store,
    By all our country rights in Rome maintained,
    And by chaste Lucrece’ soul that late complained
        Her wrongs to us, and by this bloody knife,
        We will revenge the death of this true wife. (1835-41)

          The confusion in Brutus’ reasoning betrays a partial insight into the error Shakespeare identifies as the logical crux behind the tragedy. His incorporation of the increase argument in terms of the breeding of ‘earth’s fat store’ indicates an awakening to natural logic, but not sufficient to attach the required blame to Colatine for his possessive ownership of Lucrece. Despite the bloody resolve to punish Tarquin with the knife, he is merely sentenced to ‘everlasting banishment’ (1855).

    The relation of Lucrece to the Sonnet template

    The commentary on Venus and Adonis examined the way Shakespeare articulated his philosophy in a long poem early in his career as a playwright. The consistency of the themes of Venus and Adonis with the logic of the Sonnets shows he was already in possession of his life-long philosophy in the early 1590s and that the Sonnets were written specifically to give a definitive expression to the philosophy.
          When Shakespeare wrote Lucrece as a ‘graver labour’ in 1594, he was seeking to express the philosophy with greater depth and precision. The commentary has shown that Lucrece focused more intently on the psychology of the male. It is also clear that, whereas Venus was in complete command of her role as the female prior to the male, Lucrece was the naive victim of the consequences of idealistic male pride.
          Venus and Adonis presented the argumentative structure that 16 years later was to provide the Sonnets with its logical foundation based in Nature, the sexual division in Nature, and the increase dynamic. Adonis’ refusal to acknowledge the logic of Venus’ arguments led him (and by implication human nature) to extinction, or at best to be a flower rising from the soil of Nature. Adonis died because he could not forgo his adolescent idealism.
          If Venus and Adonis took a female-eye view of the logical relationship based on the sexual dynamic, then Lucrece takes a male-eye view. It is as if Adonis, with his friends who are mentioned only fleetingly in the poem, are revived as Tarquin and his noble friends at Ardea. The crime against humanity that Adonis commits through his selfish idealism in Venus and Adonis, is revisited in Lucrece. In Lucrece, Shakespeare presents what would have happened if Adonis’ idealistic self-regard had prevailed in Venus and Adonis. It represents a ‘graver labour’ because it shows more exactly the logically corrupt state of the world when the male preempts the priority of the female. Tarquin and his friends reduce the female to an idealised chattel who dies by her own hand because she is caught in the illogical spiral of their overwrought idealism.
          Adonis’ death returned the world to a state of Nature before the derivation of the sexual human. Venus could persist because as the female principle of Nature she lost merely the overwrought delusion of the male. When Lucrece dies the males gain nothing but the blindness to repeat endlessly their domination over natural logic. Tarquin’s survival is symbolic of the male’s inability to address the cause of Lucrece’s rape. Tarquin’s punishment tacitly acknowledges their guilt and fails to redress the illogicality of their male pride.
          In Lucrece, Shakespeare attacks the state of mind that in his day was leading to the grossest form of gratuitous violence, that of male-based egotistical idealism. By examining the psychology of the male mind, he makes his first serious attempt to articulate the logical dynamic of truth and beauty. Lucrece represents a more exacting examination of the natural logic of the mind. While the dynamic of truth and beauty was considered in Venus and Adonis it does not get its complete articulation until the Sonnets, where it occupies over nine tenths of the 154 sonnet set.
          If the relation between Venus and Adonis and Lucrece is compared with the Sonnet template, then the earlier poem more fully articulates the part of the template that represent the logic of the body and the later poem more fully articulates the part of the diagram that represents the logic of the mind. The focus on the increase argument in the final pages of Lucrece brings the logic of the template to bear on the idealism of the Roman males.

    Complete Template Sonnet Numbers

    Complete template (Sonnet numbers)

          But by far the greater part of Lucrece is preoccupied with articulating the state of mind of both Tarquin and Lucrece. Shakespeare recognised when he wrote Venus and Adonis that giving expression to the natural logic of the body is relatively easy compared with successfully representing the truth and beauty dynamic of the mind. Lucrece’s long deliberation in front of the Trojan painting shows how concerned he was to give greater emphasis to the dynamic of truth and beauty.
          Not only was Shakespeare conscious of the need to explore more fully the dynamic of the mind, he was also conscious of the implications of the relation between the sexual or biological and the erotic or conceptual. As his poems are products of the mind, then they would have to acknowledge their erotic status. As in both poems the sexual engagement between the protagonists was not consummated, his choice of story with which to express his philosophy also served to express the logical relation between the sexual and the erotic.
          As the relation between female and male, in terms of the erotic, provides the logical condition for mythic expression in both poems, Shakespeare was adhering to his logical principles that any product of the human mind is inherently erotic. In these early poems he demonstrates the mythic awareness he articulates more precisely in the Sonnets and which forms the basis of the mythic achievement of the plays.
          Shakespeare achieves a number of objectives in Lucrece with his version of the Roman legend. He demonstrates the inconsistencies in the idealisations of the original event. He sets the stage for a lengthy consideration by Lucrece of the inconsistencies in her life. And, by recounting the story of an act of sexual aggression that does not lead to progeny because of Tarquin’s failure to ejaculate, he ensures his version of the story conforms with the erotic logic of myth. Shakespeare accepts the logical impossibility of substituting the poem for the processes of Nature, a contradiction that invalidates a literal belief in a mythological God.

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    Roger Peters Copyright © 2005


    Introduction    Venus and Adonis    Rape of Lucrece    The Phoenix and the Turtle
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