The story of the ‘Rape of Lucretia’ is set in Rome around 509 BC, during the reign of Lucius Tarquinus, or Tarquin. He was also known as ‘Superbus’, for his arrogance and his tyranny. It is said that, at a military camp outside the city, his son, the prince Tarquinius Sextus, was passing his time, while drinking and gossiping with two generals, Collatinus and Junius. They discussed an earlier, unfortunate bet, in which the fidelity of varied Roman wives was tried and found questionable.
Collatinus was proud about his wife, Lucretia, who was discovered sleeping alone in her husband's absence. Urged on by the malicious Junius, Tarquinius decided to find out the truth about Lucretia’s chastity. His unexpected and untimely arrival at the door produced a feeling of perturbation and uneasiness in Lucretia. However, despite her own doubts and doubts of her servants, strong sense of hospitality forced her to offer him a room for the night.
Unfortunately, in the dead of the night Tarquinius stealthily entered Lucretia’s chamber with a drawn sword and forced her to yield to his sexual advances. He threatened her by saying that, in case of her refusal, he would kill her and one of her slaves, place their bodies together, and claim that he had defended her husband’s honour when he caught her having adulterous sex with the slave.
After the unexpected incident of unwanted sex, Lucretia divulged the truth to her husband and her father in her message and committed suicide in shame and self pity. The ensuing revolt brought to an end of the kingship of ‘Tarquin the Proud’ and brought about the beginning of the-Roman Republic. Sextus Tarquinius fled to-Gabii, where he was killed subsequently.
The story relating to the Rape of Lucretia is described in both-Ovid’s “Fasti” and Livy’s history of Rome. However, both were written few centuries after the incident. Moreover, their notes are not accepted as authenticated and accurate, partly because Roman records were destroyed by the Gauls in 390 B.C, and the histories prior to that have been mixed with legends.
The story of William Shakespeare’s narrative poem “The Rape of Lucrace” has much in common with the above romantic story. Like many other historical and mythological stories, it also incited the imagination of many old masters.