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Shakespeare in Theory and Practice$
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Catherine Belsey

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748633012

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633012.001.0001

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Tarquin Dispossessed: Expropriation and Consent in The Rape of Lucrece

Tarquin Dispossessed: Expropriation and Consent in The Rape of Lucrece

(p.54) Chapter 4 Tarquin Dispossessed: Expropriation and Consent in The Rape of Lucrece
Shakespeare in Theory and Practice

Belsey Catherine

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter argues that Lucrece does the best she can — and that Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece attends closely to the complex implications of rape, and to the drawbacks of a sexual and state politics which ignores consent. While the poem focuses on the personal significance of their respective predicaments for Tarquin and Lucrece, the prose specifies the implications of the rape for Rome. In Shakespeare's account Tarquin uses force instead, gagging Lucrece with her own nightgown to smother her outcry. By her death, Lucrece dissolves her shame, erases the threat of bastardy to Collatine's lineage, and motivates political action. Lucrece's story demonstrates that the proper does not stay in place: the trace of the other destabilises the self-same. Perhaps the cross-couple, trope of deconstruction and thus of the instability of meaning, can be seen as the figure of cultural and political change.

Keywords:   Lucrece, Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, Tarquin, sexual, state politics, Rome, Collatine

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