Because the first sentence of Shakespeare's Dedication to Southampton speaks of "this Pamphlet without beginning" it is not altogether certain Shakespeare wrote "The Argument" that precedes the text of "The Rape of Lucrece": "without beginning" very likely refers to the fact that "the poem begins," as the glossing apparatus of the Riverside edition puts it, "in the middle of the action," but it might just as well refer to the absence of a conventional, prefatory, narrative summary. In neither case, however, is there anything especially peculiar about the way the poem or, more precisely, "this Pamphlet," is lacking something from the start. With or without an Argument, no surprise attaches to the way the poem opens in media res , with Tarquin rushing "From the besieged Ardea all in post" (1), this being a conventional way to initiate the narration of such well-known, epically contexted, stories as that of the rape of Lucrece. So too, again because the rape story and its epic frame (the formation of the Roman republic) are both so famous and familiar, there is nothing very strange about Shakespeare having chosen to omit, if he did, what was a customary, but by no means an obligatory, introductory recapitulation. For this reason, however—because a shared literary history presumptively resumes the story before a reader reads it, because both within and without the poem a general literary context supplies the pretext of an Argument—it is striking that Shakespeare, looking back at "The Rape of Lucrece" from the distance of the Dedication, remarks the way "this Pamphlet" begins "without beginning," all the more so since, as it is written, "this Pamphlet without beginning" stands in complementary contrast to a dedicatory love "without end."
The absolute formality of this abstract opposition, plus the intricacy of the logical and syntactic hinge through which the opposition is coordinated—"wherof"—establishes a field or spectrum that at first appears to be exhaustive: a systematic completeness in between two interminable extremes, an enormity of everything extending forward, to begin with, to beyond the end, reaching backward, to conclude with, to before the beginning. And yet, at least in this first sentence of the Dedication of "The Rape of Lucrece," the entirety thus so blankly and encyclopedically imagined, specified neither in terms of space nor time, contains within it only that which is excessive to the wholeness it comprises: namely, the "superfluous Moity" Shakespeare advances as his judgment on or of his text's relation to his "love." "Moiety" is a word that for Shakespeare most often connotes a conflicted and contested, usually binary, portion of a larger whole—as at the opening of King Lear where "in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the Dukes he values most, for equalities are so weigh'd, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either's moi'ty" (1.1.4–7)—but here, because the dedicated "Moity" is "superfluous," it becomes a portion that exists as something surplus to
the whole of which it is a part. And this is not altogether an abstraction. Precipitated out of the conjunction of an inconclusive "loue . . . without end" and a headless "Pamphlet without beginning," there emerges a poem that is "but a superfluous Moity." But Shakespeare knew enough Latin that we can be certain this textual superfluity contains for him a very vivid image: a liquid portion that runs over, a fluidity that overflows.
As it happens, this image is quite central to "The Rape of Lucrece," figuring not only the rape but also its motivation and consequences, so it is significant that Shakespeare, speaking in the authorial first-person of the patronizing Dedication, in this way associates his poem with the phenomenology of the spurt, with both the energy and the materiality of a liquified ejection, as though his text itself, as "superfluous Moity," were the objectification of an ejaculate suspense. It remains to determine why, here and elsewhere, the "superfluous Moity," both in its material fluidity and in its constrained directionality—thrusting outward from the aftermath of the pre-beginning toward the unreachable horizon of an ultimate inconclusivity; a movement, frozen in a static motility, between a departure always initiated après coup and an arrival prospectively postponed in anticipation of a forever deferred and receding destination: "Before, a joy propos'd, behind, a dream," to use the language of sonnet 129—so readily, frequently, and circumscribingly informs Shakespeare's imagination of what comes to pass when the erotic ("The loue I dedicate") and the poetic ("this Pamphlet") go together. That this happens here, in the first-person address to Southampton, suggests that this is partially a biographical question, a matter of what Shakespeare found convenient when he represents himself as speaking in his own subjective voice. That this happens elsewhere, however—in Shakespeare's poems, even when they are not in the first-person, as well as in the plays—suggests that this is not simply a personal but also a more general literary matter, having to do with the way Shakespeare imagines the literary presentation of subjective character as such, the way he constructs or achieves the literary effect of psychologistic, characterological subjectivity.
In what follows I want to show that the individually inflected cast of Shakespeare's character, on the one hand, and the varied cast of Shakespearean literary characterology, on the other—together, the personal and the personalizing Shakespeare, i.e., the person who creates literary personae—are related to each other in ways quite literally prescribed by the contours of the "superfluous Moity." More precisely, in what follows I want not only to show that there is something characteristically Shakespearean about the way Shakespeare summons up the figure of an interposed or intervening excess when he locates the endlessness of the sexual and the beginninglessness of the textual in relation to each other, but that, because there is so, this determines the formation and reception of the Shakespearean subject. Accordingly, because the large question I am concerned with is
how the singularity of a contingent personality—the idiosyncratic Shakespeare—corresponds with, informs, motivates and is motivated by, a generic and highly determined subjective literary phenomenon—Shakespearean characterology—it is necessary to say clearly, before beginning, that the terms of my argument are at once more particular and more general than might at first appear: by "characteristically Shakespearean" I refer to that which literally marks out Shakespeare, Shakespeare's "Will ," not his name but its signature; by "the Shakespearean subject" I refer both to Shakespeare's biographical first-person—the one who writes "By me William Shakespeare " when he signs his will—and also to the subjectivity effect sometimes evinced by Shakespeare's literary representations of human character, where there are lyric and narrative as well as dramatic examples. This is why "The Rape of Lucrece," though it is not usually recognized as a major work by Shakespeare, and though the subjectivity effect it generates is relatively feeble, is worth considering in considerable detail, for it provides a clear-cut illustration of the way the impression of psychologistic person in Shakespeare's texts characteristically effects and is effected by the mark of Shakespeare's person. Given the institutional force of Shakespearean characterology, given what goes on in Shakespeare's name, this is an important and not only literary issue.
I have elsewhere argued that in his sonnets Shakespeare invented a genuinely novel poetic first-person, one that comes to possess enormous power and authority in post-Shakespearean literature because, in a uniquely literary way, it reflects and responds to the conclusion or waning of the poetics and poetry of praise. From antiquity to the Renaissance, in both literary theory and practice, the poetics of praise—i.e., epideictic or demonstrative oratory—defines the rhetorical mode not just associated with, but, more strongly, identified with the literary per se; accordingly, Shakespeare's registration or production of a difference in this long-standing tradition represents an important event in literary history, for it speaks to a significant rethinking of the means and meaning of literature as such. One necessary consequence of this rethinking or mutation of the literary, I have argued, is the arrival of specifically psychologistic literary subjectivity effects.
According to this argument, three large and related literary features mark the way Shakespeare's sonnets revise what until Shakespeare is taken to be an orthodox literariness. First, at the level of theme, Shakespeare's sonnets, situating themselves posterior to the poetry of praise, forswear the idealization of poetic language formally and historically endemic to the language of poetic idealization. Second, corresponding, at the level of motif, to this thematic recharacterization of the nature of poetic language, Shakespeare's sonnets give over a general imagery of vision, the homogeneous phenomenality of which traditionally materializes the ideality not only of the object of praise but also of the poet's epideictic
language and desire, and, instead, develop an imagery of phenomenal heterogeneity the conflicted physicality of which embodies an interruption in or wrinkling of familiar imagery of visionary sameness, identity, reflection, likeness. Third, a change of poetic manner corresponding to these changes in poetic matter, Shakespeare's sonnets regularly develop a four-term tropic structure of cross-coupling chiasmus the complicated figurality of which works not only to redouble but thereby to introduce disjunction into typically two-term comparisons and metaphorical identities developed in the poetry of praise.
Considered independently, any of these innovations—thematic, material, tropic—amounts to an important rewriting of orthodox epideictic literariness; taken together, however, these three features reciprocally corroborate each other in a decisive way, for the chiastic rhetoricity of Shakespeare's sonnets serves to foreground a specifically verbal duplicity that confirms the way poetic language, heard as language and invoked as such, is essentially discrepant to idealizing, unitary, visionary speech. In this way, the very languageness of language in Shakespeare's sonnets, sounded out, becomes both witness and performance of the belation and belying of linguistic idealization, with the result that poetic voice in Shakespeare's sonnets, to the extent it is registered as voice, not vision, establishes the first-person speaker of the sonnets, whom the sonnets will sometimes call "Will," as the internally divided, post-idealist subject of a "perjur'd eye" (sonnet 152). It can be shown that this subject, "Will," again for purely formal reasons, possesses a specific characterological profile; e.g., he—for this subject is conceived as male—experiences his own phenomenal substantiality as a materialized heterogeneity; he is subject of an unprecedentedly heterosexual, and therefore misogynist, desire for an object that is not admired; he speaks a language that effectively speaks against itself and derives from the experience of such speaking a specific sense of space and time.
I summarize this argument regarding Shakespeare's sonneteering first-person not because in what follows I want to presuppose either its assumptions or its conclusions but because I want to bear its terms in mind as part, though only part, of my claim that what happens in "The Rape of Lucrece" is characteristically Shakespearean. Accordingly, it seems significant, in the light of Shakespeare's "perjur'd eye," that "The Rape of Lucrece" organizes at its beginning the very same literary features—again, thematic, material, tropic—as those that condition the formation of Shakespeare's lyric self, and does so so as to tell a story about what happens after praise. These are the opening stanzas of "The Rape of Lucrece":
From the besieged Ardea all in post,
Borne by the trustless wings of false desire,
Lust-breathed Tarquin leaves the Roman host,
And to Collatium bears the lightless fire,
which in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire,
And girdle with embracing flames the waist
Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece the chaste.
Happ'ly that name of "chaste" unhapp'ly set
This bateless edge on his keen appetite;
When Collatine unwisely did not let
To praise the clear unmatched red and white
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.
As the first two stanzas introduce the story, there was a time, before the beginning of the poem, when things were as they should be, an originary time of ideal and specifically visual "delight," when "mortal stars as bright as heaven's beauties,/With pure aspects did him peculiar duties." This is how the poem initially images or imagines Collatine's initial happiness—what the third stanza of the poem will call "the treasure of his happy state"—as a primal shining moment in the past to which the poem's present-tense narrative now remembers back as absolute beginning of the diegetic story. At the same time, however, at least in opening narrative retrospect, this is a strange beginning in the sense that, as beginning, it may never have begun, as the fourth stanza explains:
O happiness enjoy'd but of a few,
And if possess'd, as soon decay'd and done
As is the morning's silver melting dew
Against the golden splendor of the sun!
An expir'd date, cancell'd ere well begun.
What puts a more or less immediate end to this ideal beginning, the reason why "the morning's silver dew" melts "against the golden splendor of the sun," or the reason why this happy beginning—and here we can think of "this Pamphlet without beginning"—is "cancell'd ere well begun," is the fact that, as the second stanza recalls, "Collatine unwisely did not let/To praise the clear unmatched red and white." This is a very precise and repeatedly emphasized narrative stipulation. The poem understands Collatine's praise of Lucrece, his "boast of Lucrece' sov'reignty" (29), as fundamental cause of Tarquin's rape of Lucrece; pointedly, it is not Lucrece's chastity but "that name of 'chaste'" that "set/This bateless edge on his keen appetite." And if it is Collatine's praise that motivates Tarquin's movement, at the opening of the poem, "From the besieged Ardea all in post" "to Collatium," the poem from its beginning consistently develops this movement as an oxymoronic clouding, a systematic complication, of the simple, lucid visuality of Collatine's praiseworthy past, so that, in contrast to "the clear unmatched red and white" and the "pure aspects" of "mortal stars as bright as heaven's beauties"
that we hear about in the second stanza, "lust-breathed Tarquin," instead, in the first stanza, while he is "all in post," "bears the lightless fire,/Which in pale embers hid, lurks to aspire."
Reversing the narrative order in which the first two stanzas of the poem present this information, we can therefore reconstruct a serial chronology for the story as a whole: first there is or was an original moment of visual ideality that elicits Collatine's praise (this is "that sky of his delight," which, given the conventions of Renaissance poetry and the "clear unmatched red and white," we can provisionally take to be Lucrece's cheeks); in turn, Collatine's boasting leads on to Tarquin's posting, which in turn leads on to the rape of Lucrece. Generalizing, we can say that, according to the poem, in the beginning or, rather, in immediate response to the beginning—even more precisely, before or "ere" the beginning was "well begun"—was the word, specifically, Collatine's provocative epideictic word, "that name of 'chaste,'" that, when spoken, spelled an end not only to the beginning but also to the pure, clear vision in terms of which this beginning is now retrospectively conceived. Moreover, as the poem presents it, this focus on a fall, conceived or conceited as a corruption of vision, that follows from and after epideictic speaking is more than a merely thematic matter, since the poem itself performs or activates this same praising word of which it speaks when it speaks about the way "that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set/This bateless edge on his keen appetite." Here, in the first line of the second stanza, the poem makes a point of mentioning its use of "chaste" in the last line of the first, but this remarking or citation of its own language, when the poem for the first time recalls its own speaking, is how the poem manages to raise a merely ordinary adjective into something extraordinary, effectively translating "chaste" into "'chaste'" within implicitly remarked quotation marks, or what the poem here properly calls a "name," as though the poem intended by such self-quotation to repeat or to reenact at its beginning the original event of epideictic designation it recalls.
Naming, we will see, is a central theme of "The Rape of Lucrece"—also the narrative climax of the poem, much more so than the rape itself—so it is significant that the first line of the second stanza, where the poem both blames and names "that name of 'chaste,'" is also where the poem first establishes for itself a rhetorically self-conscious narrative persona. By means of the poem's editorializing conjecture with regard to Tarquin's motive, and by quoting its own prior speaking, the poem acquires an immanent authorial agency appropriate to its own intentionality, a distinct poetic voice expressing the poem's or, rather, its narrator's point of view. For this reason, however, it should also be noted that the first line of the second stanza is also where the poem first introduces what we will learn to recognize as its most distinctive rhetorical trope: namely, the chiasmus of "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set." This is an almost textbook illustration of the figure of speech that George Puttenham, the sixteenth-century theoretician of poetic rhetoric and ornament, called the "cross-coupler," which is the
syneciostic trope that "takes me two contrary words, and tieth them as it were in a paire of couples, and so makes them agree like good fellowes." Reading "hap'ly," on the one hand, as "perhaps," "by chance," on the other, as "in a happy manner," "gladly" (the two alternatives are, of course, already compact in each other, e.g., "fortune"-"fortunate"), the initially oxymoronic "Happ'ly"-"unhapp'ly" combination is transformed into chiasmus by the double correlation of two bivalent terms. The word play here is obvious, even, as is typical of "The Rape of Lucrece," ostentatious, which is why critics so frequently notice, even when they do not complain about, the poem's extravagant rhetorical manner, the brittle artificiality of the diction, its over-conceited style. But, even if they do so in a hyperrhetorical way, the four permuted propositions opened up by the line's positive and negative cross-coupling of two equivocations—blending happiness with sadness ("happily"-"unhappily") and the contingency of chance with the destiny of the determinate ("haply"-"unhaply")—together formulate the poem's official and explicit account of just why Tarquin is "all in post" to begin with. Putting a very fine point on it, this is precisely what "set/This bateless edge on his keen appetite."
The point is significant because, as when it names "that name of 'chaste,'" the stressed rhetoricity of the first line of the second stanza again enforces a strangely performative correspondence between the poem's matter and its manner. The heavy-handedly chiastic rhetoricity of "Happ'ly"-"unhapp'ly," to which the poem seems deliberately to draw attention, offers the motivation for Tarquin's movement "From the besieged Ardea" "to Collatium," i.e., the reason for his "posting." But if this describes the origin and constitution of Tarquin's rapacious desire, it is at the same time an origin mimicked, ex post facto , at the beginning of the poem precisely to the extent that the poem begins with Tarquin "all in post." Again, the poem starts off, very straightforwardly, with Tarquin rushing, "all in post," "From the besieged Ardea" "to Collatium." Moving in this way, in the first stanza, from one place to another, Tarquin, from the beginning, is geographically and thematically, as well as diegetically, in media res ; specifically he is in between and in transit between a siege and rape. But this straightforward progress, though it goes in only one direction, becomes, as we hear more about it, to some considerable extent refractive, for not only is it defined as a movement from the public and foreign outside of Rome (Ardea) to Rome's private and familiar inside (Collatium) but, more precisely, as a movement from, on the one hand, an outside Rome surrounds for the purpose of violent entry to, on the other, an inside Tarquin enters so as therein to surround what turns out to be another or a second inside there within. Tarquin therefore, in media res at the beginning, as he follows out the path of "false desire," thus withdraws from the outside of the outside to an inside on the inside, but the imagery of encirclement with which this intrusion is initially imagined—"girdle with embracing flames the waist/Of Collatine's fair love, Lucrece the chaste"—makes his penetrating movement to and into the
recesses of a deep internality inversely complementary to the way in which, when he "leaves the Roman host," he departs from and without the enveloped externality of the "besieged Ardea" (fig. 1).
This is how the poem first figures Tarquin on the road to rape, moving toward a conclusion that, as final destination, is nothing more than the Beginning in inverted form. And it is in the context of the more or less chiastic formation of this initial "bi-fold" posting journey—the vector of two reciprocally complicating movements, each conceived as the other inside out (a first movement of "from," defined as the extracurricular evasion of an external invasion; a second movement of "to," defined as an invasive and internal but yet circumferential and encapsulating penetration)—that the ostentatiously chiastic rhetoricity of "happ'ly"-"unhapp'ly" seems not only to explain but also to example both the motivation and the movement that leads Tarquin on to the rape of Lucrece. Just as Tarquin, when he is "all in post," is in between an inside and an outside that are both turned inside out, so too "that name of 'chaste,'" which is the cause of Tarquin's desire, is located at the disjunct intersection formed by the cross-coupling of "happ'ly" with "unhapp'ly." And this becomes a more directed displaced place of in-betweenness when we discover later on that the very same inside-outside imagery of "post," as well as this chiastic formulation and formation, is also used to illustrate and explicate the rape toward which this "name" and posting lead. Summarizing, therefore, we can say that the end of Tarquin's desire (the rape), and the motivation of Tarquin's desire ("that name of 'chaste'"), and also the movement of Tarquin toward the satisfaction of his desire (Tarquin's "posting"), are all located in the same expulsive in extremis in-betweenness as is the
Dedication's "superfluous moity"; they are all intrinsically excessive to the boundaries that chiastically enclose them, boundaries folded over on each other in a way that leads what lies between them into an open-ended cul de sac .
I am looking so carefully at the way the poem thinks its way into the beginning of its story so as to guard against a variety of naturalistic or naturalizing accounts that might be advanced to explain both the causes and the consequences of Shakespeare's version of the rape of Lucrece. Given the boasting contest conducted by the Roman men around the military camp at Ardea, one might want to see the rape as Tarquin's deflected response to his implicitly homosexual relation to Lucrece's husband Collatine, as a version, therefore, of the kind of jealously paranoiac defense against homosexuality whose root propositional attitude Freud formulated, in a famous formula, as "I do not love him, she loves him." There are surely many features of the poem that might support such a reading, as when Tarquin, for example, later on, trying to talk himself out of the rape, imagines Collatine repeating Tarquin's "post":
If Collatinus dream of my intent,
Will he not wake, and in a desp'rate rage
Post hither, this vile purpose to prevent?
This siege that hath engirt his marriage.
So too, less psychoanalytically, more anthropologically, but following out pretty much the same kind of reasoning, the story might be understood to exemplify René Girard's account both of the operation of mimetically mediated desire and of the mythographizing scapegoat mechanisms through which, according to Girard, societies formulate instances of effective difference with which to organize and to sustain culturally significant structures of hierarchical order; from the point of view of such a reading the achievement of just such grounding and orientating Difference would be the function both of the initial heroicizing boasting contest, where, as the Argument puts it, "the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame," and also of its vilifying and victimizing outcome, on the one hand, the chastening and mortifying rape, on the other, the scapegoating expulsion of Tarquin from Rome to which the poem refers in its final couplet: "The Romans plausibly did give consent/To Tarquin's everlasting banishment" (1855–56). In a similar mythographic vein, the story could be understood, in the manner of Lévi-Strauss, to package strong cultural oppositions in a reconciliatory, pacifying way—e.g., the way the martial violence of the siege at Ardea and the erotic intimacy of a domestic Collatium are married to each other in the principle of rape, where the desire for violence and the violence of desire each become, quite traditionally, expressions of the other; it would not be difficult to show how such representations work to resecure the force of larger social interdictions and demands, e.g., the operation of kinship laws, the
exchange of women, etc. All such accounts, which no doubt could be developed more elaborately, especially if eked out by relevant feminist or Marxist commentary (e.g., Eve Sedgwick's inflection of Girard's ungendered triangles in terms of more and less Freudian homophobic social patterns, or Pierre Macherey's Marxist analysis of ideology in terms of what is essentially Lévi-Straussian reflection theory), speak to various aspects of the poem, and it is also fair to say that the general story of "The Rape of Lucrece," the one Shakespeare inherits, in many respects invites such readings and responses, as could be seen by comparing in detail the terms and assumptions of such readings with traditional commentary and critical controversies attaching to the story, from St. Augustine on, e.g., whether Collatine has only himself to blame for the rape of his wife, or whether Lucrece is morally right or wrong to kill herself, or whether rape is a form of suicide or suicide a form of rape, etc.
Shakespeare's poem, however, as distinct from the myth or story he inherits, is, as we have already seen, considerably more specific in its account of the motive of the rape, stipulating as its effective cause the fact that Collatine spoke his words of praise, as though it were this speaking that the poem holds responsible for the story it recounts. Again, it is because "Collatine unwisely did not let/To praise the clear unmatched red and white" that "that sky of his delight" will soon be clouded over, just as it is as a consequence of "that name of 'chaste'" that Tarquin is "all in post." And this is an explicit thematic claim of the poem as we discover soon enough, in the fifth stanza, when the narrator asks, in his own voice, the poem's first rhetorical question, to which he then responds with an equally and specifically rhetorical answer:
Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
The eyes of men without an orator;
What needeth then apology be made
To set forth that which is so singular?
Or why is Collatine the publisher
Of that rich jewel he should keep unknown
From thievish ears because it is his own?
Perchance his boast of Lucrece' sov'reignty
Suggested this proud issue of a king;
For by our ears our hearts oft tainted be.
The ideal visuality of "that sky of his delight" is here presented as a "beauty" that "persuade[s]/The eyes of men without an orator," just as desire is here said to be corrupted, as well as occasioned, by the language that it hears: "For by our ears our hearts oft tainted be." And, again, precisely because the poem thus makes thematic and incriminating issue out of "oratory," the poem's own rhetoricity is once again performatively implicated in the rape that it reports, as though the
poem itself, because it speaks rhetorically, were speaking to its reader's "ear" so as to "taint" its reader's "heart."
All three features, therefore, that I previously characterized as characteristically Shakespearean—l) the evocation of a fallen language opposed to a clear vision, 2) a stressedly chiastic figurality, 3) the imagination of a material phenomenality folded over on itself—are not only present at the beginning of "The Rape of Lucrece," but they are also all operatively assimilated to the poem's own status as a verbal artifact, so that, in principle, from the very first oratorical word of the poem, from "From," we are situated in a present both successive to or "post" an ideal past at the same time as this present is directed toward a future that will end in rape. Moreover, the poem quite frankly adopts the rapacious point of view of this both retrospective and tendentious present, so that, in contrast to the way that Collatine, in the past, looked at Lucrece and praised "the clear unmatched red and white," both Tarquin and the narrator, in the poem's narrative present, instead regard her in an altogether different light, as when, a few stanzas later, we see what Tarquin and the narrator together see when they look at Lucrece:
This heraldry in Lucrece' face was seen,
Argued by beauty's red and virtue's white;
Of either's color was the other queen,
Proving from world's minority their right;
Yet their ambition makes them still to fight,
The sovereignty of either being so great
That oft they interchange each other's seat.
This silent war of lilies and of roses,
Which Tarquin view'd in her fair face's field
In their pure ranks his traitor eye encloses.
The "interchange" of red and white is, of course, a commonplace in Petrarchist lyric, but, as "The Rape of Lucrece" develops it, this chiastic color scheme—two colors systematically at odds not only with each other but with themselves as well: "Of either's color was the other queen"—specifically defines the point of view of rape, not only implicitly, as in the first stanza, where Tarquin "bears the lightless fire,/Which in pale embers hid, lurks to expire," but explicitly, as when, but this is only one example among many, Lucrece demands of Tarquin "Under what color he commits this ill" (475) and:
Thus he replies: "The color in thy face,
That even for anger makes the lily pale,
And the red rose blush at her own disgrace,
Shall plead for me and tell my loving tale. . . ."
We will see later on how emphatically, and, again, heavy-handedly, "The Rape of Lucrece" associates this particular conflict of colors not only with rape and wounding death but also with the way that language, being false, gives a subjectifying lie to the seeming truth of vision: according to the poem's color scheme, red and white, chiastically conjoined, yield a dappled purple that the poem not only imagines as the specific color of rhetoric but with which the poem also thematically colors its own purple rhetorical passages. For the moment, however, the only point important to insist on is that this particular color scheme, though nothing but conventional, is nevertheless something characteristically Shakespearean, at least insofar as Shakespeare organizes his two narrative poems around precisely such erotic war of red and white. Thus, Shakespeare's other and earlier narrative poem, "Venus and Adonis," also dedicated to Southampton, begins with a "purple"—its first line, "Even as the sun with purple-color'd face"—which it immediately presents as compact of the chiastic war between internally conflicted red and white, and then proceeds, as does "The Rape of Lucrece," to develop this "check'red" red-white combination, first, as image of the object of venereal desire—e.g., when Adonis "low'rs and frets,/'Twixt crimson shame and anger ashy-pale./Being red, she loves him best, and being white,/Her best is better'd with a more delight" (75–78)—then, as image of the castrating wound that marks the object of desire—the murderous boar "sheath[es]" his "tusk in his soft groin" (1116), thereby forming "the wide wound that the boar had trench'd/In his soft flank, whose wonted lily white/With purple tears, that his wound wept, was drench'd" (1052–54)—and, finally, as image of the conclusion of desire, when the dead Adonis, at the end of the poem, is transformed into "A purple flow'r sprung up, check'red with white/Resembling well his pale cheeks and the blood/Which in round drops upon their whiteness stood" (1168–70). Again, we will see "The Rape of Lucrece" develop, in a focused way, the same color imagery through the same topoi to the same end, but for now the simple point to notice is that this is something characteristically Shakespearean, first, because Shakespeare does the same thing in his two narrative poems, second, because he does it in so fixed and formulaic a fashion that it impresses itself on readers as a kind of identifying trait, as we can confirm from the fact that contemporary references to "Venus and Adonis," whether serious or parodic, fasten on and remark the poem's purple and chiastic red-and-white, as though the poem's first readers recognized in Shakespeare's handling of the motif something characterstically and characterizingly Shakespearean. Here is Gullio, in the third act of The Return from Parnassus, Part 1 , paraphrasing "Venus and Adonis":
Thrise fairer than my selfe, thus I began
the gods faire riches, sweete above compare
Staine to all Nimphes, [m]ore loueley the[n] a man
More white and red than doues and roses are
Nature that made thee wth herself had strife,
saith that the world hath ending wth thy life
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Even as the sunn wth purple coloured face
had tane his laste leaue on the weeping morne. &c.;
and here is Ingenioso, one act later, also intending an echo of "Venus and Adonis":
Faire Venus queene of beutie and of loue
thy red doth stayne the blushinge of the morn
thy snowy neck shameth the milke white doue
thy presence doth this naked world adorne.
At the very least, it is fair to say an enthusiastic reader of the first poem, "Venus and Adonis"—the sort who to "worshipp sweet Mr . Shakspeare, and to honoure him will lay his Venus, and Adonis under my pillowe"—who also notes the way "The Rape of Lucrece" begins with "clear unmatched red and white," might plausibly expect the poem to develop this image, as in fact it does, in a coherent and self-conscious way.
So too with the four-term chiastic rhetorical form, as distinct from the chiastic content of the red-white motif, for the structured criss-cross of this tropic feature—to which I have already referred in connection with "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set"—is also equally prominently and stressedly evident in both "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece." A short example from "The Rape of Lucrece" will serve to illustrate the way Shakespeare conceives the rhetorical structure of the cross-coupler at the level of the signifier, rather than at the level of the signified, at the same time as the example suggests how such a purely formal concatenation nevertheless calls forth from Shakespeare a specific ensemble of semantic, and specifically Shakespearean, associations. Here is Tarquin in his bedroom, a little later in the poem, mulling over whether he should or shouldn't rape Lucrece:
As one of which doth Tarquin lie revolving
The sundry dangers of his will's obtaining;
Yet ever to obtain his will resolving,
Though weak-built hopes persuade him to abstaining.
The rhetorical wit of these lines derives from the way, through the repetition of "re-"s, "re-volving" and "re-solving" are turned over or "re-turned" over on each other so that each is heard as near anagrammatic replication of the other. With "re-volving" and "re-solving" folded back upon themselves in this literal, and by
no means subtle, fashion, the indecisive volvere of Tarquin's "revolving" turns out to be, because the sounding of "revolving" is audibly turned inside out, precise prefiguration of Tarquin's decisively rapacious "will resolving." In the same way, the hard rhyme of "ob-taining" and "ab-staining" works to sound out the "stain" that soon becomes the poem's dominant image of Lucrece's rape. Though local, the example possesses general interest because, as we will see, these are not, for Shakespeare, casual configurations. For example, we can think of these lines in the context of Twelfth Night , where just these signifiers control the characterological relations of the play, in the often remarked anagrammatic correlation of "Malvolio"-"Viola"-"Olivia," and where what is nominally at stake in the flamboyant, allegoricizing anagrammatics is the pointed pun on voglio —"will" or "bad-will" ("Mal-volio"). We can add that in Twelfth Night all this is initially thought or presented through the sound associated with the purple flower called up in the opening lines of the play—"the sweet sound/That breathes upon a bank of violets" (1.1.5–6)—a violet, moreover, the play associates not only with "Viola" but also with the violence and violation of her imagined rape (violare ). I cite the example, and will return to it later, because the repetition of "re-"s in "re-volving" and "re-solving" in these lines from "The Rape of Lucrece" turns on the remarked repetition of "will"—"will's obtaining"-"will resolving"—which "The Rape of Lucrece" will give us good reason to consider a specifically and personal Shakespearean nominal repetition—as, of course, does Twelfth Night , if we recall the apposite alternative the play itself entitles: or What You Will .
Leaving this Shakespearean "will" to the side, for the moment, the question raised by "The Rape of Lucrece," given the way the poem ostentatiously foregrounds its chiastic matter and manner, is why chiasmus—either the chiastic content of Lucrece's red and white or the chiastic rhetorical form of the cross-coupler—is understood to motivate desire in general and rape in particular. Specifically, why is it that "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set/This bateless edge on his keen appetite," and why is it that Tarquin "posts" to Rome because Collatine "did not let/To praise the clear unmatched red and white?" We get the beginnings of an answer when the poem proceeds to elaborate Tarquin's indecision at the moment he decides upon his rape:
Away he steals with open list'ning ear,
Full of foul hope, and full of fond mistrust;
Both which, as servitors to the unjust,
So cross him with their opposite persuasion,
That now he vows a league, and now invasion.
The interest of these lines derives from the way Shakespeare here makes a point of showing how a certain kind of tropic figurality is, as such, itself the figure of subjective motivation. We recognize, presumably, since the narrator makes the
point explicit, that Tarquin is here "crossed" between two coupled oxymorons. The "foul hope" of his lust is poised off against the moral reservation of his "fond mistrust" in a conjunction that reverses the normal connotations of all four terms. As a result, because the positives become negatives and the negatives become positives, Tarquin is left suspended between a foul fondness and a hopeful mistrust, a rhetorical indeterminacy that serves, at least initially, to illustrate his hesitation between a peaceful "league" and an aggressive "invasion." Again, this is a general formal feature of "The Rape of Lucrece," as when Lucrece, resisting the rape, defensively appeals to Tarquin's better nature and tells him not to let a tiny spot of lust "stain the ocean of thy blood./If all these petty ills shall change thy good,/Thy sea within a puddle's womb is hearsed,/And not the puddle in thy sea dispersed" (652–58), a conceit that asks us to imagine, as with Tarquin's "posting," the inside on the outside and the outside on the inside, as though the infinitely small were larger than the infinitely large and the "boundless flood" containable "within a puddle's womb"—a conceit whose titillating resonance and contours seem, under the circumstances, uniquely ill designed to accomplish Lucrece's chastening, prophylactic purpose. What the example indicates, however, is that this structure of chiastic indeterminacy, whereby Tarquin alternately "vows a league, and now invasion," itself determines a determinate desire—to rape—as we see if we follow out the movement of Tarquin's indecisive lust.
The poem does not give us a graphic description of Tarquin's rape of Lucrece, at least not of the actual "invasion," this being passed over by the poem in a single discreet line to which we will soon turn. Instead, beginning where the lines on "foul hope" and "fond mistrust" end, the poem projects the details of the rape onto a description of Tarquin's progress toward Lucrece's bedroom, his movement through the passageways of her castle to her "chamber door" (337) being developed as a kind of pornographic effictio . In the course of this movement—it is fair to say in the intercourse of this movement—three obstacles bar Tarquin's progress, three hindrances stand, as the narrator puts it, "between her chamber and his will" (302). First, there is a series of locked doors, "each one by him enforc'd retires his ward" (303). Then, "as each unwilling portal yields him way" (309) "the wind wars with his torch to make him stay" (311). Finally, there is "Lucretia's glove, wherein her needle sticks" (317), which, when Tarquin picks it up, "the needle his finger pricks" (319). All three of these items—the doors, the wind, the glove—slow Tarquin down, as though the material world conspired to retard the rape. All three, however, are at the same time, and very obviously so, precisely rendered images of the rape, its physical objectification: the doors whose locks are "enforc'd" and which "unwilling" "yields him way"; the wind, which "through little vents and crannies of the place" (310) "wars with his torch . . . And blows the smoke of it into his face" (311–12); the fetishistic glove "wherein her needle sticks." Moreover, not only is each one of these things, in the resistance that it offers, an image of the rape that it repulses, but so too does each one of
these bars to Tarquin's desire manage also to spur the rapist on. The "his" of "retires his ward" refers both to Tarquin and the door. The wind that blows out Tarquin's torch also inspires "his hot heart, which fond desire doth scorch,/[To puff] forth another wind that fires the torch" (314–15). So too with the clitoral "prick" of the glove that "pricks" the rapist on: "This glove to wanton tricks/is not inured" (320–21).
All this does not go by unnoticed, either by the narrator or by Tarquin. With regard to the hindrances to Tarquin's desire, the narrator observes:
He in the worst sense consters their denial:
The doors, the wind, the glove that did delay him,
He takes for accidental things of trial;
Or as those bars which stop the hourly dial,
Who with a ling'ring stay his course doth let,
Till every minute pays the hour his debt.
The narrator's image is of a clock whose hour hand, connected to a spring mechanism, builds up potential energy when its movement is restrained by protuberant minute markers. At successive intervals the hour hand bursts past each momentary "let" in an explosive, jerky movement that measures time and brings the marker of the hours to its next repulsing and propulsing impediment. It is an image of inviting resistance, of an impetus derived from its frustration, and as such illustrates not only the way "the doors, the wind, the glove that did delay him" promote what they postpone, but also illustrates the rape itself, the way, that is, that Tarquin "consters" Lucrece's "denial."
It is perhaps an obvious point, for Tarquin draws the same moral for himself, immediately repeating—indeed, sharing—the narrator's image of the temporal "let":
"So, so," quoth he, "these lets attend the time,
Like little frosts that sometime threat the spring,
To add a more rejoicing to the prime,
And give the sneaped birds more cause to sing."
However, even if the erotic psychology thus enunciated is proverbial, and its sententious phrasing makes it seem as though it is, it is important to notice that the erotic psychology of the "let," as well as the material phenomenology of the doors, the wind, and the glove, unpacks the cross-coupling formal rhetorical logic of "foul hope" and "fond mistrust." That is to say, when Tarquin was initially indeterminately suspended between oxymorons, when he was "crossed" by "their opposite persuasion," he was already, by virtue of the very structure of this indeterminacy, embarked upon his rape. Speaking thematically we can say that Tarquin's indecision is decisive: its static framing is what thrusts him into the directed
duration of erotic time. But this is also a significant point for Shakespearean poetics, because it shows us that the cross-coupler, at least as Shakespeare here employs it, is not a neutral trope; it is instead the trope of a specific desire whose hindrance is what gives it leave to go. Specifically, it is the tropological structure and expression of an eros whose contrapposto energy, the resistance to resistance, simulates the action of a rape—and of a rape, moreover, that, rendered genially pastoral by "the little frosts that sometime threat the spring,/To add a more rejoicing to the prime," offers itself as general model for the motivating and consummating friction of heterosexual desire per se. This, at any rate, seems to be both the erotic and the rhetorical logic of "let" that links Lucrece to Tarquin and that makes Lucrece responsible for her rape by virtue of the energetic and energizing resistance that she offers to it. Lucrece herself becomes a "let," because, as Tarquin says, in response to her cross-coupling entreaties:
"Have done," quoth he, "my uncontrolled tide
Turns not, but swells the higher by this let.
Small lights are soon blown out, huge fires abide,
And with the wind in greater fury fret.
The petty streams that pay a daily debt . . ."
These lines make swelling, overflowing, or "superfluous" water, along with the already erotically coded imagery of torch and wind, into a metaphor of the results of "let": "my uncontrolled tide/Turns not, but swells the higher by this let." But just a few lines later the metaphor is literalized or activated when Tarquin, for what is the final time—as though his dam had finally broken, or as though the moment for the movement of his hour hand had come round at last—inserts himself into or, rather, inter-rupts Lucrece's spoken "let":
"So let thy thoughts, low vassals to thy state"—
"No more," quoth he, "by heaven I will not hear thee."
This is the last instance of outspoken resistance in the scene of rape, after which there is no turning back. Given the dramatic staging, however, with the two principals acting out the "let" that they engage in, it is fair to say that this is how the poem accounts for rape: through this increasingly obtrusive sounding out of "let." Accordingly, we can better understand the constitutive energy built into the rape's initiating moment: "When Collatine unwisely did not let/To praise the clear unmatched red and white." As it echoes through the text of "The Rape of Lucrece," Collatine's original and originating "let," though voiced by the narrator, is heard to contain within itself, as its own provocation, the chiasticized formation and materialization of Tarquin's rapacious desire: "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set/This bateless edge on his keen appetite." And, again, this is some-
thing the poem enforces not only thematically but also by means of its elaborated rhetoricity, so that both the poem's matter and manner, its cross-coupled signifieds along with its criss-crossing signifiers, together work together to establish the initial equi-vocation of Collatine's reverberating "let" as that which pro-vokes the rape of Lucrece. Moreover, we can now add, if this conjoined chiastic form and matter—the literal correspondence of Collatine's "let" with the phenomenology of Shakespearean copulation: the wind, the torch, the glove, the swelling water—thus immanently characterize both the motive of the rape and Tarquin's movement toward the rape—either the obstructed movement of Tarquin's "will" through the passageways of Lucrece's castle to her "chamber door" or the opening rush of Tarquin toward Collatium when he is "all in post"—so too does it describe the very action of the rape, as it occurs, soon after Tarquin's interruption, in one climactically chiastic line:
This said, he sets his foot upon the light,
For light and lust are deadly enemies;
Shame folded up in blind concealing night,
When most unseen, then most doth tyrannize.
The wolf hath seiz'd his prey, the poor lamb cries,
Till with her own white fleece her voice controll'd
Entombs her outcry in her lips sweet fold .
"En-tombs her out-cry" replicates the same reciprocally complicated four-term topography of inside-outside invagination that we have already come upon several times. But if this appears to open up a space that folds the inside and the outside over on each other, the space itself, for all its aporetic complications, is firmly placed within the "in" of "her lips sweet fold."
It is fitting that the rape, when it finally occurs, is figured in and as a simultaneously emergent and recessive in-betweenness forming and informing the "fold" of Lucrece's lips, for the smirky collation of Lucrece's mouth with her vagina supports the formal implication that Lucrece is asking for her rape because her "no," as "no," means "yes." Hence the correspondence of the "sweet fold" of "her lips" with the "Shame" or "pudendum" "folded up in blind concealing night." Beyond that, however, this focus at the climax of the scene of rape on "her voice controll'd"—and the syntax of the line leaves undecided just who the agent of the verb is, Tarquin or Lucrece—brings out the fact that Tarquin and Lucrece both speak the same language, a point, already clear enough from the equivalent tonalities and diction, the shared motifs, the stichomythian back-and-forth rhythms, through which the two of them conduct their formal argument, in utramque partem , pro and contra rape. Not suprisingly, this is something critics often complain about, on the grounds that the poem, a mere exercise in rhetoric, thus fails to individuate the characters of Tarquin and Lucrece. But such
criticism misses a point on which the poem itself insistently insists: that Tarquin and Lucrece are inverse versions of each other, and for this reason together make the rape of Lucrece, as is no doubt suggested by the objective and subjective genitive of the poem's title. Hence, too, the disjunctive conjunction of the rape itself, where Tarquin and Lucrece, because the two of them are both chiastically imagined, both come together "in her lips sweet fold."
This elaborated correspondence between Tarquin and Lucrece, which partially accounts for the oddly abstract and near comic inevitability the poem accords Lucrece's violation, is something the poem continues to develop in the aftermath of the rape, when Tarquin exits from the narrative and the poem turns its attention to Lucrece and to her lamentations. Thus, immediately after "Entombs her outcry in her lips sweet fold," the narrator forges a characteristically chiastic link, a "forced league," between the rapist and his victim:
But she hath lost a dearer thing than life,
And he hath won what he would lose again;
This forced league doth force a further strife.
So too, the poem continues to decorate Tarquin and Lucrece with the same motifs, so that, for example, Tarquin, as he steals away, "bear[s] away the wound that nothing healeth,/The scar that will despite of cure remain" (730–32), whereas Lucrece remarks her "unseen shame, invisible disgrace!/O unfelt sore, crest-wounding private scar!" (827–28; in this second section of the poem, which focuses on Lucrece and not on Tarquin, the poem establishes many such metaphoric correlations between Tarquin and Lucrece). So too, Lucrece herself anticipates a future in which, adding rhetorical insult to an already rhetoricized injury, "The orator to deck his oratory/Will couple my reproach to Tarquin's shame" (815–16). Yet more powerful, however, in its effect, than any of these articulated correspondences between Tarquin and Lucrece is the way the outspoken oratory of Lucrece's own formally declaimed complaint reiterates with its chiastic manner the chiastic matter of the rape. Thus, addressing herself to a series of allegorical abstractions—just the sort of abstractions one expects to find in a Complaint poem—first Night, then Opportunity, Lucrece concludes her lamentation with a vilifying apostrophe to personified Time; for it is Time, imagined as a particular kind of person, whom she holds responsible for what has come to pass:
Misshapen Time, copesmate of ugly Night,
Swift, subtle post, carrier of grisly care,
Eater of youth, false slave to false delight,
Base watch of foes, sin's pack-horse, virtue's snare!
Thou nursest all, and murth'rest all that are.
O hear me then, injurious shifting Time,
Be guilty of my death, since of my crime.
It is difficult to determine whether, as "Swift, subtle post," generic Time here emerges as a version, after the fact, of rapacious Tarquin rushing to Collatium "all in post" or, instead, whether Tarquin, from the beginning, is himself already a proleptic version of "Misshapen Time." In either case, "Misshapen Time" is presented as the initiating cause as well as the condition of the rape: "But some untimely thought did instigate/His all too timeless speed" (43–44). For this very reason, however, remembering that it is through a specific imagery of time—"those bars which stop the hourly dial,/Who with a ling'ring stay his course doth let,/Till every minute pays the hour his debt"—that the poem explicitly presents its logic of "let," and remembering how, according to Tarquin, "'these lets attend the time,'" the peroration of Lucrece's address to Time, with its symphony of reiterated, hortatory "lets," seems intentionally to call forth or to sound out, as much as it regrets and reviles, the same moment and momentum—Collatine's "let"—that potentiates her rape in the first place:
Thou ceaseless lackey to eternity,
With some mischance cross Tarquin in his flight.
Devise extremes beyond extremity,
To make him curse this cursed crimeful night.
Let ghastly shadows his lewd eyes afright,
And the dire thought of his committed evil
Shape every bush a hideous shapeless devil.
Disturb his hours of rest with restless trances,
Afflict him in his bed with bedred groans;
Let there bechance him pitiful mischances
To make him moan, but pity not his moans;
Stone him with hard'ned hearts harder than stones,
And let mild women to him lose their mildness,
Wilder to him than tigers in their wildness.
Let him have time to tear his curled hair,
Let him have time against himself to rave,
Let him have time of Time's help to despair,
Let him have time to live a loathed slave,
Let him have time a beggar's orts to crave,
And time to see one that by alms doth live
Disdain to him disdained scraps to give.
Let him have time to see his friends and foes,
And merry fools to mock at him resort;
Let him have time to mark how slow time goes
In time of sorrow and how swift and short
His time of folly and his time of sport;
And ever let his unrecalling crime
Have time to wail th' abusing of his time.
As with "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set," the central fact about these stanzas is the way their insistently chiastic rhetoricity, drawing attention to itself, appears to determine what they say, as though the entire speech were programmatic explication or duplication of what the poem associates with "let." With chiastic flourishes—"ex-tremes beyond ex-tremity"—Lucrece demands that Time, the "ceaseless lackey to eternity," "with some mischance cross Tarquin in his flight." But the "mischance cross" that Tarquin is supposed to bear is constructed of the same conflicted intersection of contingent destiny and happy sadness as is packed into "Happ'ly"-"unhapp'ly": "Let there bechance him pitiful mischances." In such oblique and yet accented ways, Lucrece's speech, for all its force and fluency, ends up crossing itself, developing the rhetorical "cross" of the cross-coupler in so ostentatious a fashion that the chiastic content of the lines becomes the performative vehicle of their chiastic form, rather than the other way around. Again, for a rhetorically sophisticated Elizabethan reading audience this would define the oratorical "wit" of Lucrece's complaint, a wit that signals a rhetorical self-consciousness thoroughly suffusing and yet still distanced from Lucrece's imprecations. Repeatedly repeating individual words within a syntax that circles round upon itself—"Disdain to him disdained scraps to give," "Let him have time to mark how slow time goes/In time of sorrow and how swift and short/His time of folly and his time of sport," etc.—Lucrece's speech becomes, despite herself or her intentions, the systematic instrument and issue of the chiastic folds on which consistently it turns. Only a reader for whom rhetoric has no force or function could fail to notice this, and it is just such indifference to the effect of the poem's rhetorical effects that regularly produces critical complaints about the poem's declamatory style, its idly extravagant rhetoricity. What we must also note, however, is that such complaints about the poem's excessively rhetorical manner themselves repeat what Tarquin or Lucrece—the rapist and, as we have seen, his rhetorically willing victim—themselves will say about this very topic, as, for example, a few lines later, when Lucrece, tired of her formal railing, proclaims:
Out, idle words, servants to shallow fools,
Unprofitable sounds, weak arbitrators!
Busy yourself in skill-contending schools,
Debate where leisure serves with dull debaters
lines that echo the way Tarquin earlier, when he grew tired of his own rhetorical indecision, resolved upon the rape: "'Why hunt I then for color or excuses? / All orators are dumb when beauty pleadeth . . ./Then childish fear avaunt, debating die!'" (267–74).
A long and familiar history of anti-rhetorical sensibility no doubt lies behind Lucrece's pejorative assessment of "unprofitable sounds," or what she calls a few lines later "this helpless smoke of words," so there is nothing in any way novel about either Lucrece's or Tarquin's stated thoughts about the issue of rhetoric. Neither is it surprising, given the structural symmetry the poem establishes between them, that this expressed concern for solid rhetorical matter as opposed to empty rhetorical manner is something that the rapist and his victim share: Tarquin's vice is consistently presented by the poem as reciprocal inversion and occasion of Lucrece's virtue, and vice versa, so the point of view that either one of them adopts on any topic whatsoever will likely be a version of the point of view adopted by the other. But, again, this is not the point of view of the poem itself, or at least this characterization of rhetoric as something "idle" or inexigent is not the point of view of the poem's personified narrator, who, from the first moment that a coded narrative voice enters the poem—i.e., from the moment of "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set"—takes quite a different position with regard to the question of rhetorical effect, explicitly blaming the rape of Lucrece on Collatine's "oratory," and saying outright, as clearly and straight-forwardly as possible, to ears willing to hear it, that "by our ears our hearts oft tainted be."
The point is worth stressing because it allows us to take the narrator at his own oratorical word and thereby to recapture a specifically Elizabethan reading experience of the poem's rhetoricity, one that is thereby attuned to, or responsive to, the effect of an author induced by the poem's rhetoricity. In ways that go, so to speak, necessarily without saying, "The Rape of Lucrece" calls out for a reading that attends to the different ways in which the poem's signifiers control its signifieds, to the way the poem's manner, as manner, determines its matter. This is a literal, not a metaphorical, way of putting things. When an Elizabethan reader reads Lucrece's apostrophe to Time and comes upon its reiterated "lets," he will hear them as performative climax of the way, for Tarquin, "these lets attend the time." But this performance, to the extent a reader registers it, is neither Tarquin's nor Lucrece's doing; it is instead a function of the immanent authorial agency governing the poem's rhetorical production, even though this authorial agency is itself an effect of the way the poem rhetorically unfolds. Similarly, when an Elizabethan reader reads Lucrece's apostrophe to Time and comes upon a couplet like:
And let mild women to him lose their mildness,
Wilder to him than tigers in their wildness.
the lines carry literary weight for him in good part because the criss-cross structure of "mild"-"mildness"-"wild"-"wildness" invites him to see how the M of "mild," thus cross-coupled with the W of "wild," literally enacts the chiastic "fold" of "her lips sweet fold" :  It is this porno-graphic staging of the literal letters in its lines, the way the chiasmus makes erotic theater of the poem's textuality, that gives the couplet its rhetorical spirit, at the same time as this raises such literal inversion to the level of a theme. But neither Tarquin nor Lucrece can ever be the authors of these letters that perform them, and so it is the very crossing of the letters that calls forth the figure of an author who can serve as the inscribing agent of the way the letters cross.
Taken by itself, this last example, the anacreontic MW , may at first sight seem a trivial example of what in the poem are more urgent or more telling thematic matters, but I want now to argue that the example does more than simply illustrate or exemplify how, as I said earlier, the characteristically Shakespearean determines the formation, on the one hand, of the subjectivity of the historical Shakespeare—Shakespeare, the person—and, on the other, the formation of Shakespeare's literary subjectivity effects, i.e., the impression of psychologistic person that we associate with some, though by no means all, of Shakespeare's fictional characters. To see why this should be the case, however, it is necessary, first, to understand in what way this chiastically acrostic MW collation is, in fact, characteristically Shakespearean, second, how, as such, it relates both to Shakespeare's person and to the subjectivity effects sometimes exerted by Shakespearean literary personae.
To begin with, simply as a matter of statistical frequency, we can again say, as with the red-white-purple motif, that this is something distinctively Shake-spearean, for there are six such prominently chiastic typographic configurations of MW in "The Rape of Lucrece." Even by the measure of Elizabethan poetry, where such letter play is in fact rather common, this seems a striking, if not inordinate, number. Moreover, all six examples are not only thematically suggestive in themselves, but they also tend to form a coherent ensemble of cross-referencing associations. In the first instance, the narrator explains that Lucrece cannot "read the subtle shining secrecies/Writ in the glassy margents of such books" (i.e., Tarquin's eyes) and, in addition:
Nor could she m oralize his w anton sight,
M ore than his eyes w ere open'd to the light.
The second example describes what is erotic about Lucrece's hair:
Her hair like golden thread play'd with her breath—
O m odest w antons, w anton m odesty.
In the third example Tarquin explains to Lucrece that:
Thy beauty hath ensnared thee to this night,
W here thou w ith patience must my w ill abide—
M y w ill that m arks thee for m y earth's delight.
In the fourth example Lucrece explains how she will kill herself to set a good example:
How Tarquin must be us'd, read it in me:
M yself thy friend w ill kill m yself thy foe
And for m y sake serve thou false Tarquin so.
This brief abridgement of m y w ill I make.
I have already cited the fifth example:
And let m ild w omen to him lose their m ildness,
W ilder to him than tigers in their w ildness.
In the sixth example, the narrator explains the reason for Lucrece's tears, and why she is not "author" of her "ill":
For m en have m arble, w omen w axen m inds,
And therefore are they formed as m arble w ill,
The weak oppress'd, th' impression of strange kinds
Is form'd in them by force, by fraud, or skill,
Then call them not the authors of their ill.
Taking these examples, somewhat artificially, together, we can say the criss-cross MW inversion, when it appears in "The Rape of Lucrece," seems to collate themes of reading and of marking with images of things that are either violent or erotic (it would be possible to look at these examples in more detail and discuss the way they relate to and support larger themes and images that run throughout the poem). At the same time, however, we can also note—even though it is very unlikely that a reader would in fact notice this as he reads through the poem—that either in or in a field adjacent to almost all the examples, and again in a way that seems statistically significant, there is a remarkably consistent remarking or foregrounding, either through repetition or through word play, of the word "will."
Recognizing this, and recognizing also at the same time the bizarre particularity and apparent reductiveness of the claim, I want now to suggest that the chiastic typographic inversion of these letters, MW , is for Shakespeare a characteristic—indeed, the characteristic—indication of his own name, "Will," i.e., that
it is a version, literally at the level of the letter, of the way earlier we saw "will" acquire a peculiar place and charge through its framed repetition in between the chiastic coordination of "will's obtaining" and "will resolving," a repetition or self-citation corresponding to the way that "chaste," in the first and second stanzas of the poem, is raised into "that name of 'chaste'" when it appears within the chiasmus of "happ'ly"-"unhapp'ly." I propose, therefore, that , as formal and performative index of an internal revolving that turns turning or "revolving" inside out, possesses for Shakespeare the same nominalizing function; that it functions as a signature—like the proper-name determinative in Egyptian hieroglyphs—that for Shakespeare, first, raises the ordinary word "will" into the proper name "Will," and, second, thereby "set[s]/This bateless edge on his keen appetite." Consciously or unconsciously, by happenstance chance or by designed destiny, for good or for bad—i.e., "Happ'ly"-"unhapp'ly"—MW , when it happens these letters or characters are chiastically staged in Shakespeare's texts, stand out for Shakespeare as sign of his own name, possessing the same kind of self-remarking function as is conveyed or gestured at by Shakespeare when he writes, on the last page of his will, "By me, William Shakespeare "—and we can now add that on the second page he shortens this to "Willm Shakspere ," and that elsewhere, even shorter, in what we can call, using Lucrece's phrase, a "brief abridgement of my will," he writes yet more simply "Wm Shakspe[*] ."
This is why I said before that by the "characteristically Shakespearean" I meant to refer to that which literally marks out Shakespeare, not his name but its signature. And I want now to add that this remarking of his own name, as a signature effect, possesses for Shakespeare—for Shakespeare, the person, the historical subject—a strictly circumscribed and circumscribing subjectifying function. Specifically, I propose that the criss-cross conjunction of the two letters that mark the beginning and end of Shakespeare's name—"W illiaM "—because they serve as signature of Shakespeare's name, determine the experience of Shakespearean subjectivity as psychological equivalent of the chiastically extracted "superfluous Moity," i.e., that Shakespeare's sense of his own bio-graphicized person is for him the subjective objectification of what stands between or, rather, ex-ists between the cross-coupling boundaries of a textualized beginning without beginning and an eroticized end without end. Yet more specifically, I propose that the cross-coupling orthographics of MW , when these two folded letters are thus folded over on each other, spell out for Shakespeare a structure of subjective constitution organized by the three post-epideictic literary features to which I earlier referred: 1) the evocation of a fallen language opposed to clear vision, 2) a stressedly chiastic tropic figurality, 3) the imagination of a material phenomenality folded over on itself. In turn, I want also to propose that this explains why Shakespeare's literary characters, when it happens they give off a strong subjectivity effect, both evidence and are conditioned by a particular Shakespearean erotics and a particular Shakespearean sense of space and time. For example, I
say Shakespeare's person is itself marked out, and thereby subjectively constituted, by the literal chiasmus of MW :
and, moreover, that this touch of the personally Shakespearean latently informs the formal disposition of:
For m en have m arble, w omen w axen m inds,
And therefore are they formed as m arble w ill.
Assuming the MW formation, as it is here deployed, effectively evokes the erotic logic of chiastically conjoined man and woman that runs throughout "The Rape of Lucrece"—as when Tarquin and Lucrece come disjunctively and "shamefully" together in "Entombs her outcry in her lips sweet fold"—we can understand how it happens that "The Rape of Lucrece," as do all of Shakespeare's literary writings, recognizes the difference between the two sexes—as this difference emerges in their violent, "bifold," and cross-coupling copulation—at the same time as it attributes subjectivity only to the "will" of man:
Is it possible so much can come of the writing of letters? The question returns us to the unfolding action of "The Rape of Lucrece," for, only a few stanzas after the "waxen minds"-"marble will" example, Lucrece herself sits down to write a letter, calling out for "'paper, ink, and pen'":
Bid thou be ready, by and by, to bear
A letter to my lord, my love, my dear.
Bid him with speed prepare to carry it,
The cause craves haste, and it will soon be writ.
The writing of this letter marks the end of Lucrece's formal lamentation, when she stops complaining about the rape and begins to do something about it: namely, informing her husband of what has come to pass. But, though "the cause craves haste, and it will soon be writ," the writing of her letter is immediately postponed, and this because, as she sits down to write, Lucrece's "wit" and "will" engage in a protracted battle:
Her maid is gone, and she prepares to write,
First hovering o'er the paper with her quill.
Conceit and grief an eager combat fight,
What wit sets down is blotted straight with will;
This is too curious-good, this blunt and ill:
Much like a press of people at a door,
Through her inventions, which shall go before.
With the fight they stage between "conceit and grief," these lines more than call up, they also thematize, all the issues of plain matter versus ornate manner, pro and con, that the hyperrhetorical diction of "The Rape of Lucrece" regularly elicits from its critics. But the poem does not evoke what is probably the most tired cliché of Renaissance poetics so as to take a stand, one way or the other, on the matter of matter versus manner but, instead, so as to focus on the way the writing of Lucrece's letter establishes within Lucrece an indecisive, though still "eager," fight between her "wit" and "will": "Hovering o'er the paper with her quill./Conceit and grief an eager combat fight,/What wit sets down is blotted straight with will." Like the rape that comes of its obstruction, the writing of Lucrece's letter is thus presented as specific issue of Lucrece's writing block; it is a writing "let" that writes her "letter," spotting it with "blots" of "will." If it seems too much to say that Shakespeare's own "Will" here marks his "wit," it remains the case that the poem here describes a scene of writing involving the same kind of heavy-handedly indeterminate, internal, rhetorical quarrel that earlier, just because it was something indeterminate, determined Tarquin, when he was "crossed" between "foul hope" and "fond despair," to embark upon the rape: Lucrece's "will," if not Shakespeare's, is figured through the same, specifically rhetorical, figure of ongoing indeterminacy that earlier prefigured Tarquin's "will," as well as its rapacity, in terms of a chiastic excess in "between her chamber and his will." So too, the liquid blot that now spills out of Lucrece's "will"—in the course of "eager combat," crossing out her "wit"—is no less undetermined than was the "superfluous Moity" of the Dedication or that was the little drop of Tarquin's lust that sought "to stain the ocean of thy blood"; it marks Lucrece's "wit" just as Tarquin put his willful mark upon Lucrece: "'Where thou with patience must my will abide—/My will that marks thee for my earth's delight.'" And so too does Lucrece's letter, as a whole, bear the same distinctive willful mark. Because Lucrece now writes her letter to Collatine in the same chiastic way that Tarquin earlier raped Lucrece, because the writing of the letter is materially precipitated by the "let" that is its motive, her letter too turns out to bear the characteristic wrinkle of "her lips sweet fold":
Here folds she up the tenure of her woe,
Her certain sorrow writ uncertainly.
By this short schedule Collatine may know
Her grief, but not her grief's true quality.
She dares not thereof make discovery,
Lest he should hold it her own gross abuse,
Ere she with blood had stain'd her stain'd excuse.
For the moment, it is true, folding up the letter, "her certain sorrow writ uncertainly," Lucrece postpones a full report; she keeps her secret to herself, choosing not to put her rape directly into words until her suicide will vouchsafe the truth of what she has to say. Her blood itself must "stain her stain'd excuse," and so, pending the final staining of her stain or the final blotting of her blot, we await the moment when Lucrece's bloody, visible matter will confirm her merely verbal manner:
To shun this blot, she would not blot the letter
With words till action might become them better.
To see sad sights moves more than hear them told,
For then the eye interprets to the ear
The heavy motion that it doth behold,
When every part a part of woe doth bear.
'Tis but a part of sorrow that we hear.
Deep sounds make lesser noise than shallow fords,
And sorrow ebbs, being blown with the wind of words.
But this postponement—lest "sorrow ebb, being blown with the wind of words"—itself repeats the poem's already fully elaborated structure of rapacious delay, i.e., the way the poem turns watery and windy deferral into the experience of rape, as when Tarquin's "uncontrolled tide/Turns not, but swells the higher by this let," or as when "The doors, the wind, the glove that did delay him,/He takes for accidental things of trial;/Or as those bars which stop the hourly dial,/Who with a ling'ring stay his course doth let" (323–28). Accordingly, and not only etymologically (post-ponere ), it seems to be precisely this temporal postponement—while the poem looks forward to a future when "the eye interprets to the ear"—that puts Lucrece's letter in the "post":
Her letter now is seal'd, and on it writ,
"At Ardea to my lord with more than haste."
The post attends and she delivers it.
As conclusion to Lucrece's static, even tedious, lamentations, the dispatching of this letter amounts to a dramatic and decisive gesture. However "uncertainly" Lucrece now writes her "certain sorrow," however delayed her will to write the letter—"it will soon be writ"—the delivery of her letter to the "post" marks a turning point in the unfolding action of the poem: once posted, her letter bears the promise of her rape's eventual revenge. For this very reason, however, as a turning point, the posting of Lucrece's letter also returns us to the beginning of the poem and thereby to the way what I have called the characteristically Shakespearean determines the formation of a specifically Shakespearean subjectivity
effect. We have seen that "The Rape of Lucrece" begins with Tarquin rushing "From the besieged Ardea all in post," and we have also seen that the poem makes elaborate issue of the fact that Tarquin sets out on this journey because "Collatine unwisely did not let/To praise the clear unmatched red and white." Quite literally—we can say, quite "characteristically"—according to the first two stanzas of the poem, it is Collatine's "let" that puts Tarquin "all in post," this "posting" being the unintended consequence of Collatine having praised Lucrece's "chastity." Given the postal or epistolic motif the poem now introduces, as well as the variety of heavy-handed correspondences the poem has hitherto established between the "let" and rape, we can say "The Rape of Lucrece," as it now rhetorically unfolds, here retroactively directs its reader to conceive of Tarquin, in his first "posting" movement, as a letter initially dispatched by Collatine—more precisely, by Collatine's "let"—to his own address: "From the besieged Ardea all in post" "to Collatium." Correspondingly, when Lucrece now explicitly addresses her letter to Collatine—"'At Ardea to my lord with more than haste.'/The post attends and she delivers it"—the poem seems to make a point of relaying Collatine's letter back to where it came from, back to Collatine, by return "post." Taking these two movements together—Tarquin's "post" and its reversed repetition by Lucrece's "post"—we can say the poem looks forward to a moment in which Collatine will eventually receive a version of the very letter he himself initially had posted. But our reading of the poem already tells us in advance that the meaning of this letter is inverted, not repeated nor reversed, in the course of its transmission, since the letter that Lucrece now writes will once again assert Lucrece's "chastity" but in the unexpected, inverse form of rape.
This complicating structure of repetition, reversal, and inversion—which works to add a new corroborating wrinkle to Collatine's original praise of Lucrece's "clear unmatched red and white"—explains why the "posting" of Lucrece's letter not only marks a turning point in the poem but one that will turn out, as such, to be conclusive. As repetition of Tarquin's "post," Lucrece's epistolic gesture first serves to reverse the directed movement of the poem, returning Collatine's "let" and letter to their original author. But this reversal thereby serves to complete, by inflectively inverting, the poem's directed movement, folding Tarquin's "post" back upon itself so that Collatine's first "let" and "letter," in this way ex-plicated and re-turned to sender, concludes a comprehensive circuit "From the besieged Ardea" "to Collatium," and then back again, "'At Ardea to my lord with more than haste'" (fig. 2).
It is, of course, a merely formal circuit—first one "post," Tarquin's, and then, now, with Lucrece's letter, another—thus traced out by "a certain sorrow writ uncertainly." But the complete trajectory of the letter—a narrative trajectory composed, like the literal formation of chiastic MW , of two folded letters folded over on each other—turns out in "The Rape of Lucrece" to enforce a precise literary consequence. For the only anthropomorphic figure in the poem who pos-
sesses, at least a little, some of the characteristic density, textured internality, and affective pathos we associate with Shakespeare's fully developed psychologized characters is neither Tarquin not Lucrece—both of whom seem, throughout the poem, both tonally and structurally, like abstract allegorical versions of each other—but, instead, Lucrece's husband, Collatine, whom the poem at its beginning describes as author of the rape—because he is the "orator" and "publisher / of that rich jewel" (30–34)—and to whom at its conclusion the poem will turn its full attention when Collatine at last receives his "let" and "letter" back by postponed "post." Anticipating this conclusion, as well as the way in which Collatine is transformed into a recognizably Shakespearean literary character when his letter finally arrives at what is both its first and final destination, I propose that the constellation of the "let," the "letter," and the "post," as this is developed in "The Rape of Lucrece," shows us in simple, reductive, skeletal form how Shakespeare conceives the formation of literary subjectivity in general, so that the poem's particular elaboration of a postal circuit whereby Collatine becomes a sender who receives his message back in an inverted form (inverted by the movement of re-turning or re-versing repetition) describes the way in which all Shakespeare's strong literary characters acquire their specifically psychologistic literary power.
It takes time, however, for a letter, even one transmitted "with more than haste," to reach its destination, and so, before turning to the end of the poem and to a discussion of Collatine, it is necessary to pause, as does "The Rape of Lucrece," to consider what takes place within the temporal interval separating the letter's dispatch and its delivery. This brings us, following the poem's expository development, to the long section the poem now devotes to a description of a "skillful painting" that depicts illustrative scenes from the Iliad . This ekphrastic
digression, which is of course a convention of Complaint poems, is explicitly presented as that which passes "time" while Lucrece's messenger and message enact a movement of "return":
But long she thinks 'til he return again,
And yet the duteous vassal scarce is gone;
The weary time she cannot entertain.
At the same "weary time," however, while her letter follows out the circle of its circuit, it is as something understood as novel that Lucrece, "Pausing for means to mourn some newer way" (1365), turns to examine the visual image of her own complaint:
At last she calls to mind where hangs a piece
Of skillful painting made for Priam's Troy,
Before the which is drawn the power of Greece,
For Helen's rape the city to destroy.
In some obvious ways, the Homeric story, because it collates the military siege of Troy with the rape of Helen, fits Lucrece's situation to a T. In other ways, equally obvious, the Homeric story is to some extent ill chosen, since for Shakespeare, if not for Homer, it is the rape of "strumpet" Helen—as Lucrece soon calls her: "show me the strumpet that began this stir" (1471)—that occasions the siege, rather than, as happens with the chaste Lucrece, the other way around. In either case, however, appropriate or not, the poem's citation of the Homeric story gives an exemplary dimension to Lucrece's situation, making it another instance of the primal "rape" (or cuckolding) with which our literary tradition historically begins, another version of the same old story. So too, because "Beauty itself doth of itself persuade / The eyes of men without an orator," or because "to see sad sights moves more than hear them told," the "skillful painting" promises to function as powerful eye-witness to Lucrece's plight. And indeed, it is for just this reason, because "the eye interprets to the ear," that the poem now thematically emphasizes the specifically visual modality of the "skillful painting," not just because the painting, as a painting, is something to be seen, but because, for the most part, what the "skillful painting" movingly depicts is eyes, and looks, and gazes, as though the painting were primarily concerned, by focusing on such images of vision, to illustrate the visual itself. Consider, to take just a few examples, the painted details mentioned in the first two stanzas of the narrator's description:
A thousand lamentable objects there,
In scorn of nature, art gave liveless life:
Many a dry drop seem'd a weeping tear,
Shed for the slaught'red husband by the wife;
The red blood reek'd, to show the painter's strife
And dying eyes gleam'd forth their ashy lights,
Like dying coals burnt out in tedious nights.
There might you see the laboring pioner
Begrim'd with sweat, and smeared all with dust,
And from the tow'rs of Troy there would appear
The very eyes of men through loop-holes thrust,
Gazing upon the Greeks with little lust.
Such sweet observance in this work was had,
That one might see those far-off eyes look sad.
Perhaps yet more emphatic, we are told a stanza later that:
In Ajax and Ulysses, O what art
Of physiognomy might one behold!
The face of either cipher'd either's heart,
Their face their manners most expressly told:
In Ajax's eyes blunt rage and rigor roll'd,
But the mild glance that sly Ulysses lent
Showed deep regard and smiling government.
Moreover, even when the painting paints the act of speaking, it does so by making language into something visual, into something more or less directed to the eye, as when, a stanza later, it illustrates "Nestor's golden words" (1420):
There might you see grave Nestor stand,
As 'twere encouraging the Greeks to fight,
Making such sober action with his hand,
That it beguil'd attention, charm'd the sight.
At stake in all this, of course, or what is being presupposed throughout, is the perennial aesthetic of the "speaking picture," the idea, as well as the ideal, of a visual verisimilitude, a specular mimetics, so effective and affective as to erase the difference between representation and that which representation represents. And this familiar visionary aesthetic, an aesthetic of transparent imitation, of presentational representation—which is traditionally applied to all the referential arts, not just to painting, as in the doctrine of ut pictura poesis —in turn entails or presupposes, as the narrator now points out, an equally perennial and equally visionary semiotics, one whereby a signifier, conceived as something visually iconic, is so fixedly and unequivocally related to its signified that by itself it can present its meaning or its referent to the "eye of mind":
For much imaginary work was there,
Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind,
That for Achilles' image stood his spear,
Grip'd in an armed hand, himself behind
Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind:
A hand a foot, a face, a leg, a head
Stood for the whole to be imagined.
This eloquent language of the "speaking picture," because it can "persuade / The eyes of men without an orator," is what powers Lucrece's empathetic response to the "skillful painting," whether that response is sympathetic, as when with pity she beholds the look of Hecuba "Staring on Priam's wounds with her eyes" (1448), or antipathetic, as when she looks disdainfully at Helen's lascivious eye: "Thy eye kindled the fire that burneth here, / And here in Troy, for trespass of thine eye, / The sire, the son, the dame, and daughter die" (1475–77). And the same essentially visionary motives and motifs also govern Lucrece's mouth, such that even what Lucrece will say about the painting is but the evoked image of the way the painting looks: "Here feelingly she weeps Troy's painted woes . . . / To pencill'd pensiveness and color'd sorrow; / She lends them words, and she their looks doth borrow" (1492–98).
And yet, despite the way the poem here presupposes and calls forth the entire system of specular ideality as this is conventionally deployed in the Renaissance, despite the power of the painting to address itself directly to "the eye of mind," the poem's ekphrastic description seems to stress the ideal visuality of the painting only for the purpose of immediately belying it, and this it does by pointing to the one thing in the Homeric story that the painting, precisely because it is an artifact of vision, cannot truly represent. Lucrece now "throws her eyes about the painting round, / . . . [and] At last she sees a wretched image bound, / That piteous looks to Phrygian shepherds lent" (1499–1501). This "wretched image" is the figure of Sinon, the betrayer of Troy, and he is pictured through the same checkered combination of red and white with which from its beginning the poem consistently imagines the chiastic end of what is visually pure:
In him the painter labor'd with his skill
To hide deceit, and give the harmless show
An humble gait, calm looks, eyes wailing still,
A brow unbent, that seem'd to welcome woe,
Cheeks neither red nor pale, but mingled so
That blushing red no guilty instance gave,
Nor ashy pale the fear that false hearts have.
Unlike Ulysses and Ajax, whose "face their manners most expressly told," Sinon's face, specifically, the "mingled" colors of his cheeks, disguises what he is, and this
is something very different from the way, before, a single part "Stood for the whole to be imagined." "Neither red nor pale," but, rather, "mingled," Sinon's cheeks do not betray the telltale blush of guilty red nor "ashy pale" of fearful white, and so his cheeks become demonstrative icon of the failure of visionary iconography, an image of the clouding of the clarity of vision. Sinon's very appearance, therefore, his "mingled" look, displays a blind spot in "imaginary work," showing forth an image of the way a visual appearance fails to be, or to stand for, the meaning of the way it looks. And the poem, returning to its initial claim that "by our ears our hearts oft tainted be," explains this disruption or distortion of specular transparency by seeing it as illustration of the lying "words" of "perjur'd Sinon":
The well-skill'd workman this mild image drew
For perjur'd Sinon, whose enchanting story
The credulous old Priam after slew;
Whose words like wildfire burnt the shining glory
Of rich-built Ilion, that the skies were sorry,
And little stars shot from their fixed places,
When their glass fell wherein they view'd their faces.
There is something momentous, both thematically and tonally, about the way this stanza calls up the loss of everything the English Renaissance self-servingly identifies with the bright light of Troy, something genuinely epic, not mock epic, in the stanza's elegiac retrospection. But the stanza also carefully repeats the terms with which, at its beginning, in the second stanza, the poem accounts for the loss of Collatine's ideal vision, "the clear unmatched red and white." Sinon's "words" spark a "wildfire" that burns "the shining glory of rich-built Ilion" just as Collatine's "praise" inspired Tarquin's "lightless fire." So too, the "little stars shot from their fixed places, / When their glass fell wherein they view'd their faces" fulfill the fall of Collatine's original "delight," which is imagined in the second stanza as a "sky" "Where mortal stars as bright as heaven's beauties, / With pure aspects did him peculiar duties." These repetitions work both to memorialize and to generalize the way in which "Collatine unwisely did not let / To praise the clear unmatched red and white"; they make the burning of "the shining glory of rich-built Ilion" into the mythic precursor of the loss of Collatine's "delight," but they do so at the cost of identifying the lying "words" of "perjur'd Sinon" with Collatine's equally catastrophic "praise," as though it were the very act of speaking, true or false, that spells an end to the ideality of vision.
What is remarkable about all this—especially if we remember that ekphrasis is a literary device designed to put the visual into words—is that the poem, now, at the conclusion of its description of the picture, makes explicit thematic issue of
this displacement of ideal vision by language, so that Lucrece herself, gazing on the picture's portrait of Sinon, will now observe the structural limits of the "skillful painting":
This picture she advisedly perus'd,
And chid the painter for his wondrous skill,
Saying, some shape in Sinon's was abus'd:
So fair a form lodg'd not a mind so ill.
And still on him she gaz'd, and gazing still,
Such signs of truth in his plain face she spied,
That she concludes the picture was belied.
It is as though the long digression of the ekphrasis had been developed only so as to articulate this paradox: that the picture, not despite but because of its "wondrous skill," is "belied" by its very honesty, that the "skillful painting," because it is composed of truthful images, "signs of truth," cannot represent the spoken lies of Sinon. Moreover, having formulated the theme, the poem now strives to put this paradoxical moral yet more literally into words, so that Lucrece's own speaking—remarked as such, cited as something verbal rather than visual, of the "tongue" and not the eye—now mimics and performs the way in which the "lurking" "look" of vision is revealed by a specifically linguistic and, therefore, revisionary "turn."
"It cannot be," quoth she, "that so much guile"
She would have said, "can lurk in such a look";
But Tarquin's shape came in her mind the while,
And from her tongue "can lurk" from "cannot" took:
"It cannot be," she in that sense forsook,
And turn'd it thus, "It cannot be, I find,
But such a face should bear a wicked mind.
In the context of the unfolding action of the poem, this ekphrastic movement, from "imaginary work" to "the picture was belied," from the imagination of true vision (the "skillful painting") to the performance of equivocating language (she "turn'd it thus"), defines what goes on in the time, both narrative and thematic, it takes for Lucrece's letter to reach its destination: "Thus ebbs and flows the current of her sorrow, / And time doth weary time with her complaining" (1569–70). Accordingly, since this is what enables the "return" of "post," it seems all the more important that when Lucrece's letter is now finally delivered, i.e., when "the mindful messenger, come back, / Brings home his lord and other company" (1583–84), this same imagery of time, along with everything the poem has heretofore associated with it, is reapplied to Collatine in what are increasingly explicit ways. This is what I want to look at now—the ways in which, in the final section
of the poem, time takes place in Collatine—for this is how the poem builds up to and arrives at what is structured as its strong, subjectifying climax.
After the ekphrasis, when Collatine has returned to Collatium, Lucrece begins to tell her story, though she begins and will continue its narration through a process of delay: "Three times with sighs she gives her sorrow fire, / Ere once she can discharge one word of woe" (1604–5). Drawing out the story, through a series of deferments that heighten its suspense, Lucrece first reports the fact of her rape but does not reveal her rapist's name. Collatine's response to this first segment of Lucrece's story is carefully described:
But wretched as he is he strives in vain,
What he breathes out, his breath drinks up again.
As through an arch the violent roaring tide
Outruns the eye that doth behold his haste,
Yet in the eddy boundeth in his pride
Back to the strait that forc'd him on so fast
(In rage sent out, recall'd in rage, being past),
Even so his sighs, his sorrows, make a saw,
To push grief on, and back the same grief draw.
It is evident the poem here makes a point of importing into Collatine the imagery of eddying wind and tidal water with which it not only imagines the rape—"'my uncontrolled tide, / Turns not, but swells the higher by this let'"—but so too the promise of the rape's final revelation, as when Lucrece decided "she would not blot the letter / With words till action might become them better": "Deep sounds make lesser noise than shallow fords, / And sorrow ebbs, being blown with the wind of words." Yet more precisely, as though the stanza were describing how it feels to be subjected to chiasmus, this back and forth movement, of wind and water, is imagined as a "saw," made up, we can suppose, of little x 's or crosses, that carves a groove in Collatine while with his grieving sighs he draws it back and forth across himself. This imagery, along with the whole thrust of the narrative, serves to focus attention on Collatine; we await his response to the conclusion of Lucrece's story, which should occur, we have been promised, when Lucrece reveals her rapist's name. Once again, however, there is another moment of delay, while Lucrece extracts from the assembled company a promise of revenge:
"But ere I name him, you fair lords," quoth she
(Speaking to those that came with Collatine),
"Shall plight your honorable faiths to me
With swift pursuit to venge this wrong of mine."
And then, a few stanzas later, in what would seem to be the climax of the story:
Here with a sigh as if her heart would break,
She throws forth Tarquin's name: "He, he," she says,
But more than "he" her poor tongue could not speak,
Till after many accents and delays,
Untimely breathings, sick and short assays,
She utters this, "He, he, fair lords, 'tis he,
That guides this hand to give this wound to me."
Even here she sheathes in her harmless breast
A harmful knife, that thence her soul unsheathed.
What is surprising about this, of course, and specifically ante-climactic, is that—despite the traditional version of the Lucrece story, and despite what is announced in the poem's Argument: "She, first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor, and the whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself"—Lucrece here fails to name her rapist. The poem explicitly insists upon the fact that Lucrece does not "throw forth Tarquin's name," but throws out, instead, as prologue to her suicide, this series of anonymyzing, deictic "'he'"s: "But more than 'he' her poor tongue could not speak." Again, therefore, we are obliged to await the naming of Tarquin, the straightforward and outspoken speaking of his name, which, if ever it occurs, will function as conclusion to the theme of naming introduced at what the poem at its beginning stipulates as its beginning: when, again, "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set / This bateless edge on his keen appetite; / When Collatine unwisely did not let / To praise the clear unmatched red and white."
The poem will not let Tarquin's name remain anonymous—Collatine himself will pronounce it in a moment—but before the name is mentioned it is significant that the poem allows itself two further moments of delay. First, there is the matter of Lucrece's death, which is described thus:
And from the purple fountain Brutus drew
The murd'rous knife, and as it left the place,
Her blood, in poor revenge, held it in chase.
And bubbling from her breast, it doth divide
In two slow rivers, that the crimson blood
Circles her body in on every side.
As at the end of "Venus and Adonis," where Adonis is transformed into "A purple flow'r, check'red with white," the poem here resolves the red-white color scheme through which its vision has consistently been filtered by imagining a "purple," like the chiastically colored cheeks of "perjur'd Sinon," which is the poem's iconic image of what puts an end to vision. In addition, this "purple" manifests its own
material or phenomenal formation, a "divided" flowing of "two slow rivers" that spill out from the inside of Lucrece so as to surround her on the outside with a wrinkled or a folded "circle" in whose circuit Lucrece figures as both source and center. If we try to picture this complicated image of tangential circumscription, it looks something like the way we draw a heart (fig. 3).
Surrounded, therefore, by her liquid inside, encircled by her broken heart, Lucrece becomes, at the moment of her dying, the fixed and permanent objectification of an overflowing spurt, the fleshed out incarnation of the etymological fluidity of the Dedication's "superfluous Moity." In the erotic terms developed by the poem, she embodies Tarquin's inside-outside movement when he "posts" from Ardea to Collatium for the purpose of her rape, and she also replicates the "fold" with which her two lips came together at the moment of her rape: "Entombs her out-cry in her lips sweet fold." At the same time, as she promised when she folded up her letter, her "crimson blood," as it "circles her body in on every side," now "stains her stain'd excuse."
The second moment of delay is equally recapitulatory and equally conclusive. Seeing his daughter dead upon the ground, Lucrece's father starts to speak his own memorial lament:
"Daughter, dear daughter," old Lucretius cries,
"That life was mine which thou hast here deprived.
If in the child the father's image lies,
Where shall I live now Lucrece is unlived?
Thou wast not to this end from me derived.
If children pre-decease progenitors,
We are their offspring, and they none of ours.
"Poor broken glass, I often did behold
In thy sweet semblance my old age new born,
But now that fair fresh mirror, dim and old
Shows me a bare-bon'd death by time outworn.
O, from thy cheeks my image thou hast torn,
And shiver'd all the beauty of my glass,
That I no more can see what once I was!
"O Time, cease thou thy course and last no longer,
If they surcease to be that should survive."
Again the poem foregrounds chiasmus—e.g., "'If children pre-decease progenitors'"—and again the poem unfolds the trope so as to formulate the breaking both of ideal vision—"'Poor broken glass'"—and of the mimetic logic of successive, imitating repetition: "'I often did behold / In thy sweet semblance my old age new born, / But now that fair fresh mirror, dim and old / Shows me a bare-bon'd death by time outworn.'" In personal terms, the dead Lucrece, enveloped by her "wat'-ry rigol [i.e., a watery 'ring']" (1745), displays to her father his distance from his ideal image of himself; like father, like daughter, her "'broken glass'" reflects the breaking, or the having-been-broken, of his specular identity: "'O, from thy cheeks my image thou hast torn, / And shiver'd all the beauty of my glass, / That I no more can see what once I was!'" And this in turn determines for Lucrece's father an infinite "old age," since Time itself, "'by time outworn,'" is now supposed to be chiastically suspended between the death of life and life of death: "'O Time, cease thou thy course and last no longer, / If they sur-cease to be that should survive.'"
These two final moments of delay, therefore—Lucrece's death, her father's lament—together recapitulate the themes, motifs, and movements—the mixed-up red and white, the loss of ideal vision, the inside-outside in-betweenness—that control the exposition of "The Rape of Lucrece" from its beginning, from "From the besieged Ardea all in post." Taken together, as moments of delay, they now potentiate the poem's climax, the naming of Tarquin by Collatine. First (and the gesture repeats the way Venus purples her face by kissing Adonis' castration—"With this she falleth in the place she stood, / And stains her face with his congealed blood"; 1121–22), Collatine awakes and "mingles" his own cheeks:
By this starts Collatine, as from a dream,
And bids Lucretius give his sorrow place,
And then in key-cold Lucrece' bleeding stream
He falls, and bathes the pale fear in his face.
And then, no longer mute, Collatine "at last" pronounces Tarquin's name:
The deep vexation of his inward soul
Hath serv'd a dumb arrest upon his tongue,
Who mad that sorrow should his use control,
Or keep him from heart-easing words so long,
Begins to talk, but through his lips do throng
Weak words, so thick come in his poor heart's aid,
That no man could distinguish what he said.
Yet sometime "Tarquin" was pronounced plain,
But through his teeth, as if the name he tore.
This windy tempest, till it blow up rain,
Held back his sorrow's tide, to make it more.
At last it rains, and busy winds give o'er.
This is how the poem conceives the way that Collatine "begins to talk," stressing the at once climactic and inaugural momentum through which speech becomes articulate—"Yet sometime 'Tarquin' was pronounced plain"—as it rises out of babble, "Weak words . . . That no man could distinguish." It is a speaking whose pronouncing is specifically provoked, like the rape, by the logic of the "let," so that what precipitates the "raining" of "the name" is the way the "windy tempest" "Held back his sorrow's tide, to make it more." Accordingly, the swelling force of pent-up sorrow now spills forth as the ejaculation of a name—"At last it rains, and busy winds give o'er"—and thereby introduces into Collatine the liquid temporality of rape: erotic Time (tempus ) takes place within him when the "windy tempest" (tempestas ) overflows. Rather systematically, therefore, the end of the poem, focusing on the person of Collatine, returns to its beginning with a climactic but specifically revisionary recapitulation. When he "tears" the name between his teeth, Collatine repeats the way "Happ'ly that name of 'chaste' unhapp'ly set / This bateless edge on his keen appetite," but now "that name of 'chaste'" has been transformed into the name of "'Tarquin.'" This is why I said before that there is something final or conclusive in the way that Collatine receives the letter he initially transmits—Tarquin's "post"—in the inverted form of Lucrece's folded "letter." With the "pale fear" of his face bathed in Lucrece's "bleeding stream," Collatine himself becomes the unintended consequence of the way he "did not let / To praise the clear unmatched red and white," just as he becomes the "post" by means of which "Lust-breath'd Tarquin leaves the Roman host." And this "let," because it is now finally delivered, is what situates in Collatine
the tidal overflow of a tendentious but yet retrospective time whose passing only comes to pass precisely at or as the very moment in which Collatine first speaks.
It is fair to call all this characteristically or typically Shakespearean because, from the beginning to the end of Shakespeare's career, the images, motifs, and themes through which Collatine arrives at speech also control Shakespeare's theatrical imagination of dramatic, characterological destiny. This is the case, for example, in a quite simple way, in an early, reconciliatory comedy like The Comedy of Errors where whatever is first "splitted in the midst" (1.1.103) by windy storm—e.g., the father who is "sever'd from my bliss" (1.1.118) or the twins "who could not be distinguish'd but by names" (1.1.52)—is only brought together after registration of a torn paternal "voice": "Not know my voice!—O time's extremity, / Hast thou so crack'd and splitted my poor tongue" (5.1.308–9). And so too is this the case, though far more complicatedly, in a late romance such as The Tempest , where windy storm again initiates division—"Blow till thou burst thy wind" (1.1.7); "We split, we split, we split" (1.1.62)—where "time," which is a central theme because it is "sea-swallow'd," "performs an act / Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come" (2.1.251–53), and where concluding union only comes when Prospero delivers to assembled ears his strange but calming story: Alonso : "I long / To hear the story of your life, which must / Take the ear strangely"; Prospero : "I'll deliver all, / And promise you calm seas, auspicious gales" (5.1.313–15). In the middle tragedies, where Shakespeare develops his most famously and powerfully psychologistic characters, the Collatinian terms of such dramatic personal formation are yet more evidently pronounced, whether we think, for example, of the storm in Othello —"The desperate tempest hath so bang'd the Turks, / That their designment halts" (2.1.21–22) and of the play's denominating, self-evacuating climax—"That's he that was Othello; here I am" (5.2.284)—or of the storm in King Lear that "germinates" the king's disseminated tragedy—"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! blow! / You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout / Till you have drench'd the steeples, drown'd the cocks! . . . And thou, all shaking thunder, / Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world! / Crack nature's moulds, all germains spill at once / That makes ingrateful man" (3.2.1–9)—or of the mixed-up letters through which Hamlet 's time and being are subjected to the "leave" of "let": "If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what is't to leave betimes, let be" (5.2.220–24). In all these plays, to which of course I now can only gesture, characters enact the same misogynist erotics as is developed in "The Rape of Lucrece"; they discover the same internal sense of present broken self and retrospective temporality as is summed up in "I no more can see what once I was"; and they all turn into textured subjects when they learn firsthand how "by our ears our hearts oft tainted be."
However, beyond such shorthand references to what is characteristically, in the sense of typically, Shakespearean about the construction of Shakespeare's var-
ious dramatis personae , I have also suggested, with what I said about MW , that for Shakespeare, the person, there is something yet more literally "characteristic" about Collatine's receipt, in inverse form, of the letter he dispatches, for Shakespeare's "Will " is also implicated in the writing of two criss-crossed literary letters. The question that remains, therefore, is why, for Collatine or Shakespeare, the writing of a letter is related to the registration of a name.
Our reading of "The Rape of Lucrece" at least allows for a schematic answer, for, as we have seen, the poem associates the act of naming both with writing and with speech. Collatine's "let" puts Tarquin "all in post," but so too does it "praise the clear unmatched red and white." In either case, a name results, first "that name of 'chaste,'" and then the name of "'Tarquin,'" but the latter name, when it is spoken, bespeaks the final mix-up of Lucrece's pristine "red and white." As we have also seen, when Collatine, at the end of the poem, at what I have called its climax, "pronounces 'Tarquin' plain," he exemplifies what happens to a person when he "begins to talk," something the poem amplifies as an inaugural moment of constitutive, subjectifying transition in which the truth and clarity of vision is supplanted and belied by verbal speech. This corruption of ideal vision by spoken language, the reason why "by our ears our hearts oft tainted be," serves to motivate the erotic and temporal movement of the poem, establishing desire as a longing for a visionary origin that the very act of speaking renders lost, introducing successivity into Time by making "now" the aftermath of what has come before. But the speaking of the name with which the poem in this way brings itself full circle is itself provoked by Collatine's originary "let," as though Collatine can only say the name of "Tarquin" and thus become a person, when the epistolic "post" that he himself initially dispatched completes its complicated circuit.
Putting, as the poem does, all these movements and motifs together, we can say that writing in "The Rape of Lucrece" is what leads its subject into speech. The "let" that "posts" a "letter" is the instrumental medium by means of which "that name of 'chaste'" is translated into "'Tarquin.'" In large thematic terms, therefore, writing functions in "The Rape of Lucrece" as that which marks off, but thereby produces by remarking, the difference between what the poem associates with vision and what the poem associates with speech. More precisely, writing is the complication that stands between a language understood as something visual (e.g., the "praise" of red and white), a language that is therefore truthful image of its meaning or its reference (e.g., the semiotics of "imaginary work"), and a language understood, instead, as something spoken (e.g., she "turn'd it thus"), which is a language, therefore, that by virtue of its verbal essence is fundamentally discrepant both to meaning and to reference (e.g., the lies of "perjur'd Sinon"). Poised, however, in between the image and the word, writing does not stand apart as something that is neutral; its complication is no more undecided than was Tarquin when, "with open list'ning ear," he was "crossed" between "foul hope" and "fond despair." As something intermediate, writing
introduces difference into what ideally is the same, and in this way makes the movement of the poem, from Collatine's first "let" to "sometime 'Tarquin' was pronounced plain," into a coherent and inexorable progress. As with the implicit quotation marks that indicate, without pronouncing, the way a word becomes a name when use turns into mention (e.g., the remarked repetition whereby "chaste" turned into "'chaste'"), writing thus not only registers but also warrants the unhappy destiny the poem associates with names.
But this returns us to the way the poem theatrically performs its letters, for the typographic gestures to which I have referred make the poem's own textuality—the literal letters that are seen upon the page—into an example of what stands between the image and the word. Accordingly, if Shakespeare's own "Will " is graphically inscribed at the criss-cross of MW —and four of the examples directly call up images of writing, reading, marking—this reflects the way Shakespeare's own authorial voice is called forth by what belies it. The signature of Shakespeare's name—the letters that chiastically circumscribe his name's beginning and its end—in this way authorizes the subjective content of what, to paraphrase Juliet's famous question, is in and what goes on in a Shakespearean name when it is made such by remarking: between the W and M Shakespeare too can read the provocative difference between an ego of full being and the designated subject of a name, for the very fact that they are written is what proves that Shakespeare's "Will" is different from "I am."
It is, of course, an altogether contingent fact that Shakespeare's name was "William," and I do not mean to argue that if Shakespeare had been called by any other name he could not have written what he wrote. If I insist upon the particular importance of the "Will " ¬ formation, it is in part because there are a remarkable number of examples of it in the poem (and also elsewhere in Shakespeare's writings), in part because "The Rape of Lucrece" makes such a vivid issue of the relation between "Will" and "writing" ("What wit sets down is blotted straight with Will"), but most of all it is because this reminds us that the name of Shakespeare is nothing but contingent. It is in this sense, as something that occurs "Happ'ly"-"unhapp'ly," that we should understand how it happens the "superfluous Moity" of the Dedication turns out to materialize the poem's demonstration of the inexorable return of subjectifying letters. On the one hand, we can see this as a personal effort, on Shakespeare's part, to adapt the tradition of the dedicatory epistle to the logic of the "let," as though by writing to his patron Shakespeare means to put himself in "post." On the other hand, to account for the popular success of so personal a gesture, we can see it as a consequence of and a response to the increasingly acute perception and experience in the Renaissance of a specifically textual quality attaching to writing in general, and to letter writing in particular—what Claudio Guillén, speaking of the revival and invention of epistolic genres, has called "the Renaissance awareness of the letter." This explains how the idiosyncratic inflection of Shakespeare's individuated character
subsequently becomes the governing model for literary subjectivity as such, for soon enough, when Shakespeare writes for the theater, he will turn this private structure of author-patron epistolic exchange into something public, and his "Will ," because its letters are addressed to everyone, will come to seem generic. But this remains a thoroughly contingent fact within our literary history, as contingent as is the accident of Shakespeare's name, and a contingency that will only seem inevitable within a literary history of self-remarking, self-performing names. This is why we should read what the editors write to William, Earl of Pembroke, in the Dedicatory epistle to The First Folio as a thoughtful caution rather than a boast: "There is a great difference, whether any Booke choose his Patrones, or finde them: This hath done both." At a moment when contemporary theoretical debate about the relation of psychology to literary letters simply repeats, without inverting, the topoi and the story of "The Rape of Lucrece," at a moment when the resignation of Shakespearean designation claims the authority of an extraliterary force, at a moment when moralizing contextualizations of literature illiterately reinscribe the characters of master texts, it is all the more urgent to recognize, by reading, the specifically literary formation of the subjective "appetite" occasioned by "Happ'ly that 'name' of chaste unhapply set." For this is the only way to break the legacy of Shakespeare's "Will ," the only way to open up a time outside the temporality of rape. It is now about time to think ourselves outside the Shakespearean constellation of the "let," the "letter," and the "post."