In Shakespeare's poem the rape takes place between the stanzas. Any explicit presentation of the act would be considered a blatant breach of decorum. Neither does Heywood stage the act: having threatened her and declared in a definitive manner: "Lucrece thou art mine/ In spight of Jove and all the powers devine", Tarquin "bears her out." Valerius's catch, "replaying" the rape, is therefore altogether "supplementary" to the plot and was probably designed for the sheer entertainment of the audience from the Red Bull. Its pornographic excess derails the audience from the rest of the play and disrupts the consistency of the diegetic reality.[4] For the latter to be maintained the forbidden/unattainable object - the sexual act - can be approached but never reached.

Heywood's catch is not only explicit in naming the sexual act but the process of un-covering Lucrece's body proceeds in an upward movement, turning upside down the traditional downward progress and the accompanying laudatory blazons of Renaissance erotic poetry. This unabashedly debasing treatment of the female body as mere object of sexual gratification was not, however, singular in Jacobean poetry, as Donne's Love's Progress as well as Nashe's Choice of Valentines indicates. In both poems the lover's tone is one of worldly cynicism, the movement of his eyes/hands is upward and not downward, there is no defence, however spurious, the progress of love is quick and unchecked.[5] Heywood's catch exceeds the limits set by these poems in that the close to pornographic approach is applied to a notorious act of raping a chaste woman.

What is repugnant to the modern reader about this catch is the uncensored pleasure that it is supposed to produce when describing the violation of a woman. Given the song's format, in which three characters participate reinforcing each other, and the popularity of its tune, we can presume that the catch was sure to elicit pleasure and enlist support among the audience. Heywood relied here on the misogynistic tradition of treating rape as a joke that erases all suffering that the sexual violation produces to the woman.[6] He seems to have embraced the parodic approach to Lucrece's myth that was widely disseminated and reinforced through Machiavelli's La Mandragola, apparently encountering no difficulties in reconciling this approach with Tit Livy's heroic perspective.[7]

No moment of excess of eroticism undermines the diegetic consistence or destabilizes the reader in Shakespeare's poem. Nor is there any jarring clash in the employment of conflicting traditions about Lucretia. The poem does, however, construct a male roused gaze, taking voyeuristic pleasure in the image of a female body that is going to be raped. The difference between Shakespeare's and Heywood's approach to the pleasure elicited by the representation of Lucrece's body is rather one of degree rather than of kind.

What is it that Tarquin sees in Shakespeare's poem? As Nancy Vickers has pointed out, when looking at Lucrece, he sees whatever Collatine has described and blazoned before, Tarquin's desire having initially been enflamed by a mimetic rivalry between the two.[8] Collatine's blazon, having been constructed in the Petrachan tradition insidiously produces certain pornographic effects, such as the fragmentation of the female body or the complete silencing of the woman.[9]

But Tarquin sees more and enjoys more. So does the reader, as the poem forges his identification with the voyeuristic gaze. Georgiana Ziegler has shown that Tarquin's progress through the house, his voyeurism within the woman's chamber, the roaming of his eyes over her rosy cheeks, white hand, marigold eyes and veined breasts also have a pornographic effect, particularly as they anticipate the violent possession of the chaste woman.[10] The pillow swollen with anger (388)[11]mimics his roused desire.[12] What is displayed to him once he has opened the bed curtains is an image of the "sleeping nymph", whose innocent voluptuousness is inviting.[13]

The alluring image of Lucrece's body rehearses a range of poetic and pictorial discourses and traditions. Von Koppenfels has indicated the influence of Marlowe's erotic poetry on Shakespeare, namely of Hero and Leander as well as of his translations from Ovid's Amores. Tarquin's crossing one room after the other one, the opening of the bed curtains, the possessive placing of his hand on Lucrece's breast reiterate similar moves made in the seduction of Hero by Leander. In his turn, Marlowe owed much of the discovery of the lure of the body to the extensive study of Ovid within Elizabethan humanistic education. Shakespeare's poem relies upon an Ovid who is re-read through Marlovian lenses. For example, his description of the parts of Lucrece's body that Tarquin's gaze lingers on takes over features from Ovid and enhances their erotic impact by significantly changing the location of the object of perception: whilst Ovid's Tarquin was inflamed at Lucrece's face and hair when seeing her at her loom, Shakespeare's Tarquin is roused by the same features when gazing at Lucrece in her bed.

I think that Shakespeare's and Heywood's construction of voyeuristic pleasure, which is at odds with their political and moral reading of the subject was strongly even if indirectly influenced by the treatment of this subject in painting. Reference could be made to Titian's The Rape of Lucrece, which includes a servant gazing on and vicariously participating in the act. I shall consider Cranach's numerous paintings of Lucrece stabbing herself, for the Protestant religious meanings that have often been attached to them.[14] The paintings of Cranach as well as of Durer or Hans Baldung Grien can be said to collapse the moment of rape with that of suicide, making the latter a kind of self-rape or a reiteration of the rape.[15] The final words that Shakespeare's Lucrece utters: "'tis he/ That guides this hand to give this wound to me" (1721-22) could well serve as a caption for these paintings.[16]

What is particularly disturbing about these representations of Lucrece is the alluring sensuality of her naked body, which is designed to arouse voyeuristic pleasures in the viewer. Huston Diehl has chosen one of Cranach's Lucretia to prove how Cranach "employs an iconoclastic rhetoric that disrupts the eye and destabilizes the viewer's pleasure in the erotic image…." (133) This is what, according to Diehl, the Protestant "reformation of the gaze" is all about. Diehl focuses upon the dialectics according to which "Cranach's painting simultaneously appeals to the male viewer, encouraging his eye to linger on the gentle contours of an alluring, sensual, nude female body and repels his aroused gaze, shaming him for his voyeuristic desire to look upon the exposed woman." (Diehl, 61) Diehl admits that by looking, the viewer, like Tarquin violates Lucretia, so that the painting "may well anticipate and even help to construct a modern gaze that takes a pornographic pleasure in the image of a woman who is both pure and violated, chaste and abused. He insists, however, on the feeling of guilt, of self-scrutiny that the viewer also experiences and which leads to a self- conscious, self-reflective and I would add self-castigating gaze.

Shakespeare's Lucrece could be said to fit in with the Protestant programme Diehl has outlined. The narrator's outraged voice that accompanies Tarquin's voyeuristic progress is expected to disrupt the pleasure that the reader experiences by virtue of the identification that is forged between him and Tarquin. The self-reflective distance coupled with the guilt that he is enjoying the image of a pure woman who is about to be raped could interrupt his aroused imagination. This would account for the difference between the uninhibited, "excessive" enjoyment that Heywood's catch offers the viewers and Shakespeare's contained form.

Von Koppenfells has noticed, however, that the narrator's voice is too weak to cover up the fascination he experiences projecting the alluring image of the woman. (Koppenfels, 133) We may have doubts about Shakespeare's intention to curb or even to suppress the reader's enjoyment.[17] The interesting thing is that neither does Lucas Cranach always stick to the Protestant dialectics of the gaze where the fascination with the image of luring female body is offset by its iconoclastic repulsion, followed by self-scrutiny. Robert Scribner, addressing a similar issue as Huston Diehl, has focused on the very Lucretia paintings by Cranach that Diehl has ignored. In these paintings Lucretia is disturbingly similar to the Venus Cranach painted in the same period of time. Scribner notices a transfer of features from Venus's face to Lucretia's, so that no pained expression should repel the viewer's gaze but an inviting look, a graceful slant of the head and a decorative holding of the dagger render Lucretia's suicide perversely arousing.[18] Scribner does not deny the iconoclastic strictures passed by Protestants but he suggest a different development of ways of seeing. He insists on the persistence with a difference both of the medieval iconophilia and of the sensuous experience of images it involved. The medieval devotional gaze included the involvement of the body as a basic component of the mystical knowledge of the transcendent presence. During the Reformation the gaze was displaced upon images of secular objects, whose rich corporeality was devoured by greedy eyes and was no longer subsumed to the experience of the transcendent. At the same time, I'd venture to add, the medieval coexistence of eroticism and spiritual experience could have been displaced upon the treatment of highly moral figures such as Lucretia, Susannah and Judith.[19] Their seductive femininity was considered to be menacing to men, fact that made further allowances for the controlling, voyeuristic gaze.

The success of both Shakespeare's poem and Heywood's play testifies to the popularity of this mode of seeing in early modern England as well.

© Universitatea din Bucuresti, 2002. All rights reserved.
No part of this text may be reproduced without written permission of the University of Bucharest, except for short quotations with the indication of the website address and the web page.
Comments to: Mãdãlina NICOLAESCU
Last update: August 2002
Text editor: Raluca OVAC
Web design: Monica CIUCIU