Abstract and Keywords
Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece (1594) depicts a moral world based on classical conceptions of honour and shame. It does so not for antiquarian reconstruction but because these conceptions are very much part of Shakespeare’s world. Reimagining a famous story concerning Rome’s mythic past, Shakespeare engages with ancient and Renaissance moral psychology, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Spenser’s Faerie Queene to explore the ‘shame’ of Lucrece’s rape and the complex relationship of shame to other feelings such as love, fear, and pride. Lucrece, her rapist Tarquin, her ambiguous revenger Brutus, and even such minor characters as Lucrece’s messenger, reveal themselves through their diverse responses to shame. By reconceiving the role of shame and related passions in the Lucrece story, Shakespeare challenges traditional gender and social roles and associated conceptions of proper ethical and political action.
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