“Perchance his boast of Lucrece’sov’reignty”: The Rape of Lucrece and the Political Subject
Lauren Silberman Baruch College (CUNY)
In The Rape of Lucrece Shakespeare self-consciously makes a place for himself as a politically engaged and politically potent writer through critical engagement with the complexities of the Lucretia tradition. Although republican politics represent an important element of that tradition, I do not particularly want to argue that Shakespeare advocates a programmatic republican political position in his poem. Rather, The Rape of Lucrece puts in play concepts, images, and discursive constructs that will prove crucial to republican politics for the English-speaking world in the centuries after Shakespeare. Previous versions of the Lucretia myth tend to show characters struggling to assert power or to resist that assertion. Shakespeare’s poem stages conflicts among political formations and presents the concept of the sovereign subject as an embattled paradigm. In general, Shakespeare draws on Ovid for the erotic aspects of the Lucretia story and on Livy for the element of political struggle. Nevertheless, in channeling his sources, Shakespeare turns in significant ways to two of his contemporaries: Christopher Marlowe and Edmund Spenser. Shakespeare plays Marlovian erotic narrative as exemplified by Hero and Leander against Spenserian allegory, particularly the allegory of the body-castle in the House of Alma, as he explores divergent and competing representations of the political subject.
The event will be held in Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive. As usual, social hour will be from 5-6, dinner 6-7, and the talk 7-8:30. The cost for dinner, payable by check only, is $30. When you RSVP please indicate whether or not you plan to come to dinner; please give 10 days advance notice.