THE RAPE OF LUCRECE by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare is my favorite author. I also believe he is one of the world’s greatest literary geniuses. However, I get ticked off when people act like he was some divine figure who could do no wrong. For one thing, it turns lots of people, especially young people, off to a great writer they might well embrace otherwise. Also, it’s simply not true. This poem is ample proof of that. It is astonishing to me that THIS was one of only two works Shakespeare carefully oversaw the publication of. The other was the charming but very slight Venus and AdonisThe Rape of Lucrece is dreary, dull and reeks of the author looking over his shoulder for the approval of “literary” types. The Roman legend it is based on certainly has potential as a story but Shakespeare handles it with utter banality. It’s hard to imagine that such a horrific theme like rape could be written about in such a flat manner but that’s what happens here. The poem is so blase that even the fine editor of the 1960 Arden edition, F. T. Prince, indulges in a drily sarcastic footnote or two. One gets the strong impression that, on some level, Shakespeare was just not that interested. There are a few eloquent lines and some definite historical interest but this is tough to slog through. I read it because I was determined to read all of Shakespeare’s works. The Rape of Lucrece took a LONG time. Not planning to read it again. Thankfully, Shakespeare didn’t spend too much time with this stuff and, at least, we got a lesson that ANY writer can bomb. 

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