Rape is War. The Language of Violence in "The Rape of Lucrece"

Term Paper 2016 14 Pages

Didactics - English - Literature, Works


Table of Contents



The use of military language to describe Rape




This study examines how language is used to suggest sexual aggression in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece. Tarquin commits rape because he wants to sexually conquer Lucrece. Such devices as metaphors of violence and other linguistic devices in the poem are examined for evidence of sexual conquest. The study argues that the kind of language that Tarquin uses reflects his behaviour and actions in significant ways. For example, the language reflects his ideologies and the exercise of power. There are several ways in which the language manifests itself. Examples include figurative language such as imagery and metaphors. The study concludes that the structural metaphor of the poem is crucial to the understanding of rape as the worst form of intrusive crime comparable to the incursion of a territory by foreign forces.

Key words: incursion, aggression, phallic, siege, violence.


Metaphors and imagery are the significant poetic tropes used in The Rape of Lucrece. In the system of imagery, there is a structural metaphor which may be defined as the overriding idea of comparison. For example, a ‘football game is war.’ The structural metaphor is supported by conceptual metaphors such as ‘the coach assembled a strong arsenal of eleven men’, and ‘the team attacked its opponents from the flanks.’ The words ‘arsenal’ and ‘attacked’ in the conceptual metaphors above are drawn from military combat. Therefore, their use in the football field is metaphorical. In The Rape of Lucrece, military terms such as ‘siege,’ ‘yield’ and ‘ambush’ are metaphorical. They are used not only to suggest the destructive nature of rape, but also to evoke feelings of repulsion and anger against Tarquin.

The use of military language to describe Rape

In the poem, the structural metaphor is ‘rape is war.’ The metaphor is introduced in the first stanza of the poem that refers to the besieged Ardea. After reading the whole poem, it becomes apparent that the idea of a place under siege is foregrounded. Tarquin leaves the besieged Ardea and goes to Collatium with the intention of having sex with Lucrece. However, Lucrece declines the act and as a result sexual coercion occurs. The events that precede the rape such as the mental debate that he has, as well as the rape itself, are described in military metaphors. Tarquin’s use of military metaphors is not surprising because he is a general. He uses vocabulary drawn from the linguistic domain of his profession. His use of martial terms in a non-military linguistic environment makes the rape even more violent and more repulsive. His vocabulary suggests an uncaring attitude when used in a non-military situation. In patriarchal societies such as ancient Rome, man used to command and have his way, while women were submissive. The gender relation of the time was military in nature. In the military, junior officers take commands from their superiors. Tarquin expects a similar response from Lucrece. That is why he uses metaphors that suggest coercion and compliance. The use of such martial terms as ‘ambush’ (233), ‘siege’ (220), ‘captain’ (270), ‘pilot’ (279), and ‘yield’ (668), to mention a few examples, in a poem that deals with rape, helps the reader understand the devastating effects of sexual coercion, as well as power relations between the perpetrator and the victim of rape.

It is interesting that although the poem deals with sexual aggression, the word ‘rape’ is used only twice, in lines 909 and 1369. However, it is extraordinary that Shakespeare uses the word ‘siege’ (line 221) and its variant, ‘besieged’ (Line 1) the same number of times as the word ‘rape.’ The equal frequency of the words ‘rape’ and ‘siege’ is not a coincidence. The lexical incidences lend credence to the notion that rape and the incursion of a territory are used interchangeably in the poem. In other words, one is the metaphor of the other, depending on the context of use. Shakespeare employs this ornate diction to make a tapestry of events in his poem that qualifies it as poly-layered. At one level the poem may be read as a private account of a rape. But at another level it may be an account of an issue of national concern, the siege of Ardea, or even both. In the poem, Shakespeare wittingly frames the story of Tarquin‘s phallic aggression against the backcloth of the siege of Ardea. As a result the rape of Lucrece and the incursion into the territory are fused. The view that Lucrece and a geographical entity are merged is supported by such critics as Peter Smith whose work, Rome’s Disgrace: The Politics of Rape in Shakespeare’s Lucrece, argues that Lucrece is essentially a city. He argues that repeatedly and in a way that emphasizes the political rather than the physical, the body of Lucrece is transmogrified into features of a cityscape (2005:22). He cites examples from the poem such as Tarquin’s hand resting on Lucrece’s breast like a battering ram against the wall (Lines 463-464). In the poem Lucrece’s physiology is described in terms suitable to the eroticisation of a landscape. For example, her breasts are ‘A pair of maiden worlds unconquered’ (Line 408). Shakespeare reinforces the metaphor of exploration cited above when Tarquin stoops over the sleeping Lucrece between lines 421 and 423. Tarquin is portrayed as an explorer who is awe-stricken by an undiscovered or a maiden territory.

After the rape, Lucrece thinks of herself in terms of metaphors of man-made structures such as a house, fortress, mansion and temple:

Her house is sack'd, her quiet interrupted,

Her mansion batter'd by the enemy;

Her sacred temple spotted, spoil'd, corrupted,

Grossly engirt with daring infamy:

Then let it not be call'd impiety,

If in this blemish'd fort I make some hole

Through which I may convey this troubled soul. (Lines 1170-1176)

What is common among these entities is their protective nature against adversity, natural and man-made. In the passage the narrative voice employs violent military and religious imagery. The words ‘sack’d’ and ‘batter’d’ bring to the reader’s mind images of a war-torn town. The word ‘Sack’d’ in the first line of the passage suggests the looting or pillaging of a captured city. ‘Batter’d,’ on the other hand, suggests the demolition of the walls and the gates of the city. In other words, the narrative voice is using images of violence to express Lucrece’s physical and psychological devastation as a result of the rape. After the rape her moral virtue is lost, leaving her distraught. That is why the narrative voice says ‘her quiet interrupted,’ meaning that she loses her peace of mind. Line 1172 states further the psychological ruin that the rape has caused her. Shakespeare employs religious imagery of the body as a temple in order to evoke the reader’s feelings of pity for Lucrece. The use of the word ‘temple’ to refer to the human body is particularly commonplace in Shakespeare’s works. For example, in Macbeth, Act II, scene iii, line 67, Macduff calls Duncan’s body ‘the Lord’s anointed temple.’ In yet another of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Hamlet, in Act I, scene iii Laertes calls Ophelia’s body a temple that ‘waxes with its inward service of the mind and soul’.

The metaphors of violence are modelled on the idea of predator and prey. Tarquin is the predator, while Lucrece is the prey. The narrative voice employs predator and prey imagery to describe the protagonists. The images used to refer to Tarquin are essentially intended to show his predatory instincts towards Lucrece. Animal imagery and references feature prominently in the poem, as representations of Tarquin’s sexual voracity or predation. The catalogue of beasts of prey which describes Tarquin includes such creatures as an owl, a dog, a wolf and a lion. However, for Lucrece, the images of a dove and a fowl portray her as an innocent creature at the mercy of a predator. Shakespeare uses this stark contrast to express the feud between antitheses such as virtue and vice, and good and evil. Lucrece represents good and virtue, while Tarquin epitomises vice and evil. The images are also intended to evoke feelings of terror which run through the poem. The contrasting imagery touches on appearance and reality, one of Shakespeare’s main themes:

This earthly Saint, adored by this devil,

Little suspecteth the false worshipper;

For unstained thoughts seldom dream on evil;

Birds never limed no secret bushes fear.

So guiltless she securely gives good cheer

And reverend welcome to her princely guest,

Whose inward ill no outward harm expressed. (Lines 85-91)

The lines above dramatise the contrast between Tarquin and Lucrece. Lucrece is referred to as a ‘saint’ while Tarquin is a devil. Lucrece is likened to a saint because of her moral virtue, while Tarquin, on the other hand, is equated to a devil because of the evil thought of rape that he harbours. Even though the poem is set in classical Rome, Shakespeare employs ideas of Christianity and the Renaissance, and of the devil versus saint in the poem. The stark contrast is intended to turn the reader against the predator. We learn from the stanza that Lucrece is vulnerable because of her naivety and innocence. She does not suspect that harm can befall her: ‘Birds never limed no secret bush fear’ (Line 87). After all, Tarquin is a friend of her husband. In turn, Tarquin employs his Machiavellian cunning. He successfully hides his stained thoughts in the ‘pleats of majesty’ (Line 93).

The metaphor of birds used in the stanza prepares the reader for another ornithological image in line 360, where ‘The dove sleeps fast that this night-owl will catch.’ In this line Lucrece is likened to a dove, while Tarquin is equated to an owl. A dove is a bird which symbolises purity and innocence. These are Lucrece’s qualities, she is chaste and her thoughts are uncontaminated. An owl, on the other hand, is a bird of prey associated with evil. The owl does not only feed on other birds, it is also active at night. In the poem night is important. It is the time when the crime of passion takes place. The owl is not only a bird of prey used to describe Tarquin. He is also compared to a falcon in line 506. The owl and the falcon are stronger than the dove. Therefore, Shakespeare uses the contrast to show Lucrece’s vulnerability.

While the narrative voice mainly uses contrasting imagery to describe Lucrece and Tarquin, the latter, on the other hand, thinks of himself as an army. The military image that he uses constantly in the pre-rape stanzas to express his thoughts is set in motion by the line ‘A martial man to be soft fancy’s slave’ (Line 200). The stanza from which the line is taken is part of the section of the poem that deals with his meditation about rape. In the pre-rape stanzas, Tarquin argues that if he presses forward with his quest he will be violating his integrity, his family’s honour, and that of Rome and Collatine. From this point on the reader witnesses the frequent use of vocabulary drawn from the battlefield. For example, he thinks of his presence at Collatium as a siege:

If Collatine dream of my intent,

Will he not wake, and in a desperate rage

Post hither, this vile purpose to prevent?

This siege that hath engirt his marriage. (Lines 218-221)

The word ‘siege’ suggests war and violence. Its meaning is emphasised by the word ‘engirt’ which means surround. The metaphor of siege warfare is used to express the gravity of the imminent betrayal of friendship, as well as the phallic violence against Lucrece. Tarquin uses another military term when he states that his is an unjustified course of action:

Had Collatine killed 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 (Lines 232-235).

The word ‘ambush’ is in keeping with siege warfare. It is a military tactic in which an army makes a surprise attack on the enemy at close quarters. In the poem, Tarquin catches the unsuspecting Lucrece, and manages to ‘ambush’ her by means of ‘Hiding base sin in pleats of majesty’ (Line 93). Lucrece does not suspect him of any evil intention because ‘He is here in double trust,’ to borrow Macbeth’s expression (I. vii. 12). First, he is her husband’s friend. Secondly, Tarquin is a prince and as such, Lucrece expects him to be exemplary in the moral sense. That is why she pleads that ‘My husband is thy friend: for his sake spare me’ (Line 582), and ‘Thou art a sea, a sovereign king’ (Line 652).

The use of military metaphor reaches its peak when Tarquin succumbs to his baser instincts, and decides to march on and get what he covets. From the line ‘Affection is my captain and he leadeth’ (271), we learn of his tragic decision to let feelings overwhelm his conscience. By making this pronouncement, he metaphorically enlists an army that subordinates his moral judgement or conscience to ‘affection.’ At this point in the poem, Tarquin ceases to exist as a person, his body assumes the shape of a barracks. It essentially becomes a platoon under the command of ‘affection.’ Other physiological features of his body such as the eye, the hand and even the veins become junior officers who have to be kept in proper order. The division of labour amongst the body parts is ordered and well-organized, which is typical of the military. At least from the point where Tarquin gives each body part responsibility, until the stanza that begins with ‘As grim lion fawneth o’er his prey’ (Line 421), military order is uninterrupted. However, in the stanzas that succeed Tarquin’s militarisation of his physiology, the military imagery is interrupted by the narrator’s use of a metaphor made famous in Hamlet. In the play, young Hamlet articulates his distaste of his mother and uncle’s incestuous marriage. He rants:

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t, ah fie, ‘tis an unweeded garden

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely. (I. ii.133-137)

In the passage above, young Hamlet expresses not only his aversion to Denmark’s moral decadence, epitomised by the hasty union between Gertrude and Claudius, but also an uncompromising nihilism.

The agricultural image of weeds is also employed by the narrative voice in The Rape of Lucrece to emphasise the idea that Tarquin has nearly destroyed his conscience in an effort to rape Lucrece: ‘As corn o’ergrown by weeds, so heedful fear/Is almost choked by unresisted lust’ (l. 281-282). The simile of an unweeded cornfield reminds readers of the oral appetite used in the poem to refer to uncontrollable lust and the brute pleasure of sexual coercion. It is not surprising, therefore, that Tarquin crudely states that he is going to ‘enjoy’ Lucrece (Line 521).

The use of the word ‘almost’ in line 282 suggests that Tarquin is not completely indifferent to the suffering of Lucrece. He is, like most rapists who are capable of empathy, unwilling to empathise on this occasion as that would be detrimental to his selfish ends. The paradox used to describe Tarquin after the rape proves that he feels guilty about his transgression. He is called a ‘captive victor that hath lost in gain’ (Line 730). The word ‘captive’ concludes the military metaphor used in the poem. In the war that he has launched, Tarquin emerges as the two extremes of the battle, a victor and a captive loser. Like a war captive in the hands of the enemy, he is imprisoned by his guilty conscience. Ultimately, the conscience that he almost annihilates becomes an instrument of justice. Although his coveted mission is accomplished, he is psychologically condemned eternally. He and his family are also banished from Rome.

After the narrative voice has interrupted the military imagery, the language of the poem returns to the image of the battlefield. The use of the word ‘marcheth’ (301) highlights the orderliness of the army as it scales its enemy’s fortress. However, the orderliness of the army is affected when Tarquin reaches Lucrece’s chamber after he forces open the doors:

His eye, which late mutiny restrains,

Unto a greater uproar tempts veins:

And they, like straggling slaves for pillage fighting,

Obdurate vassals fell exploits effecting,

In bloody death and ravishment delighting,

Nor children’s tears nor mother’s groans respecting,

Swell in pride, the onset still expecting.

Anon his beating heart, alarum striking

Gives the hot charge and bids them do their liking. (Lines 426-434)

The passage above makes the mood of the poem sad. There are such phrases as ‘bloody death’ and ‘ravishment delighting,’ which are related to physical violence. The lines also employ punctuation that slows down the rhythm of the poem. As a result the tone of the speaker is quite sombre. The word ‘uproar’ suggests excitement. Therefore, Shakespeare’s diction, in this case, implies that Tarquin has lost control because of the prospect of his sexually assaulting Lucrece. The loss of control ‘Gives the hot charge and bids them do their liking’ (Line 434). There is an atmosphere of chaos, the kind that reigns when an army descends upon a city. Unruly members of the military plunder the city. In other words, Shakespeare is using elaborate diction to suggest that Tarquin uses his power illegitimately by raping Lucrece.

The description above is nothing short of the expertise of a sex therapist. The stanza describes the physical changes that take place in a male person just before coitus such as erection, rapid heartbeat and an increase in body temperature. But more importantly, the stanza portrays a disintegration of the military orderliness we have witnessed in the previous stanzas. The loss of order leads to unprecedented violence in the poem. ‘Affection’ loses control over the eye, hand, and veins. The word ‘mutiny’ is a term used to describe a crime in which soldiers conspire to openly oppose, change or overthrow existing authority. It is the eye that incites rebellion by junior military officers. As a result such juniors as the veins go on the rampage, and pillage and plunder the fortress. ‘Straggling slaves’ are the lowest members of the Roman military. Therefore, the narrative voice refers to the veins. We may argue that since the military referred to in the lines is Tarquin’s body, the lowest part of his body that is responsible for ‘pillage fighting’ is his phallus. The overt reference is military attack, but underlying the stanza is a strong suggestion of sexual aggression. The veins are, therefore, those in his genitals, the dorsal vein, and a collection of arteries that transport blood to the sinuses or spaces in the body of the penis. Shakespeare, therefore, uses military imagery to describe a potentially destructive erection that Tarquin has at the prospect of sexually attacking the sleeping Lucrece.

In their study, quoted by Baumeister et al. (2002), Malamuth, Heavey and Linz argue that men with high sexual arousal to aggression and low empathy are more likely to commit acts of sexual coercion than other men (p. 120). When Tarquin is aroused by the sleeping Lucrece, he suppresses his empathy. He is a typical rapist. The words ‘swell’ and ‘onset’ are particularly interesting. In the context of the poem, ‘Swell’ implies penile tumescence, while ‘onset’ refers to the start of sexual aggression. ‘Pride,’ on the other hand, may refer to a phallus. The meaning of the line ‘Swell in pride, the onset still expecting,’ is that Tarquin gets an erection at the prospect (‘expecting’) of sexually violating Lucrece. The lines below entail a paradox predicated on oral appetite:

As the lion fawneth o’er his prey,

Sharp hunger by the conquest satisfied

So over this sleeping soul doth Tarquin stay (Lines 421-423).

The phrase ‘sharp hunger’ refers to Tarquin’s uncontrollable lust which is fuelled (‘satisfied’) by the psychological thrill of conquest. If the ‘sharp hunger’ had been fulfilled by the prospect of sexual aggression against Lucrece, then Tarquin would not have raped Lucrece. Therefore, the line is a paradox which is meant to express the magnitude of Tarquin’s lust . According to Steven Booth’s commentary notes in The Sonnets (1996) , the first line of Sonnet 151 makes reference to the proverbial Latin tag, penis erectus non habet conscietiam, which translates into an erect penis does not have conscience . In The Rape of Lucrece that proverbial tag is manifested by Tarquin’s lack of control over his lust. He is essentially a man ‘ruled below the belt’ because even when he knows the moral implications of the rape, he still commits it.

The imagery used in the stanza prepares the reader for yet another strong military metaphor of the battering ram in line 464. The indiscriminate violence that the veins are said to unleash is typical of what happens in war time. When a place is under attack innocent civilians, especially women and children, suffer the most. The imagery of women and children in the quotation represents the innocence of Lucrece. Therefore, lines 430 and 431(‘In bloody death and ravishment delighting/Nor children’s tears nor mother’s groans respecting’ ) suggest the callousness of the predator later in the poem, when Lucrece is ravished in spite of her cries and pleas to be spared. Ultimately she commits suicide. The line also implies soldiers’ behaviour during war. The word ‘bloody’ suggests assault from both military artillery and acts of sexual violence. During war, soldiers are barely subject to discipline. As a result, they usually engage in such unruly acts as plundering, looting and rape.

The immediate pre-rape stanzas catch the reader’s attention because they use violent language. When one reads them, it becomes apparent that Tarquin has barely subdued his conscience. An example is the following shocking passage:

Lucrece, quoth he, this night I must enjoy thee

If thou deny, then force must work my way;

For in thy bed I purpose to destroy thee. (Lines 512-514).

The darkly erotic language which is imbued with oral appetite is a manifestation of Tarquin’s psyche. It shows his almost suppressed sense of pity for Lucrece which becomes apparent when he remembers that faint heart never won fair lady. The words ‘enjoy’ and ‘destroy’ are not only violent, in the context of the poem, but they also highlight Tarquin’s psychological imbalance. More importantly, the words are a sign of his narcissistic attributes such as lack of empathy, arrogance and haughtiness. His arrogance is suggested by the use of an imperative utterance. He is aware that, as a woman, Lucrece is defenceless. Interestingly, he avoids using the word ‘rape’ and opts for ‘destroy’ because he cannot stand the idea that he is sexually coercing Lucrece. In fact, there are only two instances, as we have noted, where the word is used in the poem, one by Lucrece in line 909, and the other by the narrative voice in line 1369. Although the word ‘destroy’ has negative connotations, it is less stigmatised than ‘rape.’ In avoiding the word, Tarquin’s action is in line with the claim by the narcissistic reactance theory that a narcissistic rapist wants to perceive his victim as consenting because the consent would be flattering to him. The use of the word ‘rape’ would remind him that it is through superior force that he is able to have sex with Lucrece. The memory would be injurious to his ego.

Tarquin also uses violence-charged intimidation in his final utterance: ‘Yield to my love; if not enforced hate, / Instead of love’s coy touch, shall rudely tear thee.’(Lines 668-669). It is interesting that Tarquin evades the use of yet another word ‘lust,’ opting for ‘love’ instead. This is typical of narcissistic rapists who, according to Baumeister et al, exhibit self-enhancing cognitive distortions (p. 109). In the context of the poem, the word ‘love’ also suggests a libertine attitude, or ‘love’ as sexual gratification. But more than that, the use of the words ‘love’ and ‘destroy’ instead of ‘lust’ and ‘rape’ respectively suggests self-enhancing cognitive distortions. The employment of the words in the imperative lines proves how language is used to reflect ideology and to demonstrate its influence on the exercise of power. Tarquin feels that as a prince he can have whatever he wants. That is why he transgresses moral rectitude in order to exercise his demented ideology and power.

The word ‘yield’ is a military term meaning surrender. In war, it is the weak who yield to their stronger enemy. Therefore, when Tarquin uses the word he reminds us of his power over Lucrece. The statement that he ‘shall rudely tear’ Lucrece is particularly frightening. The adverb ‘rudely’ reminds us of Sonnet 129, where we are told that consummation of lust is not only savage, extreme and cruel, but also rude. Tarquin threatens Lucrece with violent carnal knowledge if she refuses to willingly make available to him what he wants. He threatens to rudely tear her hymen and metaphorically lay her waste. The verb ‘tear’ reminds readers of the violence which a woman endures during rape. However, it also recalls Lucrece’s virtues that Collatine is said to have praised at the beginning of the poem. That is her chastity and general moral virtue. When Tarquin rapes her, he tarnishes these attributes. After the rape, therefore, we realise that virtue praised is villainy aroused and chastity extolled is chastity exorcised. Tarquin tears Lucrece sexually. In so doing, he also tears apart the moral fabric of Rome.

Although the poem has 1855 lines, the act of sexual coercion takes place between lines 673 and 683. The fact that the act takes place within ten lines has led critics such as David Willbern (1993) to argue that the poem is not about rape, but the motivations and feelings that precede and succeed the crime. In his view, it is a ‘before-and-after’ design, pivoting on a central act that is not described (p. 96). Although his criticism deals extensively with poetic craftsmanship, Willbern’s assertion ignores Shakespeare’s poetic will. The statement that rape is not described is inaccurate as it ignores the military metaphors, symbolism and the contrasting images that underpin the language of the poem. The events of the poem, as highlighted in this discussion, are narrated in detail in metaphorical language. When Tarquin breaches the wall of the city, and forces the doors open, he is committing rape. In other words, Shakespeare uses figurative language effectively to describe rape, and to arouse disgust in the reader against the perpetrator of the crime.

There is yet another symbol of aggression in lines 680-681, where ‘with the nightly linen that she wears / He pens her piteous clamour in her head.’ The lines mean that Tarquin wraps Lucrece in her bed linen to stifle her screams. However, in line 681 the word ‘pens’ is ambiguous. It may mean to enclose, which is the meaning when the line is read along with the preceding one. However, to a modern reader, it may also mean to write. Therefore, the word ‘pens’ is symbolic. A pen is a phallic symbol. Therefore, the line would mean that the act of sexual coercion remains etched in Lucrece’s memory. Shakespeare is making a point, in a poetic way, that Lucrece’s rape will be a legend, especially since Ovid, Livy and he wrote about it. Willbern concurs with this view when he argues that the efforts of Lucrece’ tears to cleanse the stain of Tarquin’s lust then become a wish to erase her shame from historical records (p. 92).


Imagery used in the poem helps the reader to understand sexual aggression. The structural metaphor of the poem is that rape is war. The setting of the poem against the backdrop of the siege of Ardea emphasises this metaphor. The use of the words ‘rape’ and ‘siege’ the same number of times lends credence to the view that military imagery is central to the meaning of the poem. The imagery expresses the gravity of the crime committed against Lucrece as well as the perpetrator’s predisposition to the offence. Tarquin’s decision to rape Lucrece is influenced by his role as a soldier. He rapes Lucrece when he remembers that he is a martial man who should not yield to fear. He has a raging lust that makes rape itself seem a lesser evil than the failure to show his martial valour. His role in the military makes it possible to stop access to remorse consequent upon commission of the crime because he essentially becomes a platoon. His physiology is described in military terms and the various body parts such as the eye, hand and veins are accorded military ranks. To suggest the extent of both physical and psychological violence, which the rape has on Lucrece, Shakespeare uses violent expressions such as ‘shall rudely tear thee’ (669), and ‘To make the breach and enter the city.’ The words ‘tear’ and ‘breach’ are used as synonyms in the poem to suggest a horrific sexual encounter. The words remind the reader of the physical and psychological effects of rape on the victim. Lucrece’s hymen which is metaphorically referred to as the city wall is breached by Tarquin’s battering ram.


Peter, J. Smith. 2005. “Rome’s disgrace: The politics of rape in Shakespeare’s Lucrece.” Critical Survey, 17(3), 15-26.

Roy, F. B., Kathleen R.C., and Harry M.W. (2002). “Conquest by force: a narcissistic reactance theory of rape and sexual coercion.” Review of General Psychology, 6, 192-135.

Shakespeare, William. 1990. Macbeth. (Kenneth, Muir, Ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Original work published 1606).

Shakespeare, William. 1982. Hamlet. (Roma, Gill, Ed.). London: Methuen. (Original work published 1603).

Shakespeare, W. 1992. The poems: the rape of Lucrece; the phoenix and the turtle; the passionate pilgrim; lover’s complaint. (John, Roe, Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Shakespeare, William. The sonnets. (Gwynne, B., Evans Ed.) The new Cambridge Shakespeare. London: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Willbern, David. 1993. Poetic will: Shakespeare and the play of language. Philadelphia, Pa: University of Pennsylvania Press.


ISBN (Book)
File size
488 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Botswana
incursion aggression phallic siege violence.



Title: Rape is War. The Language of Violence in "The Rape of Lucrece"