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THE RAPE OF LUCRECE.
Lucius Tarquinius, for his excessive pride surnamed Su perbus, after he had caused his own father-in-law, Servius Tullius, to be cruelly murdered, and, contrary to the Romar. laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people's suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom;-went, accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea; during which siege, the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king's son, in their discourses after supper, every one commended the virtues of his own wife; among whom, Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humor they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife, though it were late in the night, spinning amongst her maids: the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports: whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius, being inflamed with Lucrece' beauty, yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest back to the camp; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew himself, and was, according to his estate, royally entertained and lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night, he
'This argument appears to have been written by Shakpeare, being prefixed to the original edition of 1594.
treacherously stealeth into her chamber, violently ravished her, and early in the morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily despatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, another to the camp for Collatine. They came, the one accompanied with Junius Brutus, the other with Publius Valerius; and finding Lucrece attired in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor, and whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself: which done, with one consent they all vowed to root out the whole hated family of the Tarquins; and bearing the dead body to Rome, Brutus acquainted the people with the doer and manner of the vile deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the king: wherewith the people were so moved, that with one consent and a general acclamation, the Tarquins were all exiled, and the state government changed from kings to consuls.
FROM the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Haply that name of chaste unhappily set
Which triumph'd in that sky of his delight,
Where mortal stars, as bright as heaven's beauties,
With pure aspects did him peculiar duties.
For he the night before, in Tarquin's tent,
O. happiness enjoy'd but of a few!
Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
of men without an orator:
What needeth then apology be made
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish ears, because it is his own?
Perchance, his boast of Lucrece' sovereignty
His high-pitch'd thoughts, that meaner men should vaunt
That golden hap which their superiors want.
But some untimely thought did instigate
When at Collatium this false lord arrived,
When beauty boasted blushes, in despite
Virtue would stain that o'er with silver white.