William Shakespeare is an undisputed exponent of the English Renaissance and his production collects and reworked the questions and contradictions that loom over the nature and function of men and women in society. Such is the case of the narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece. Shakespeare’s verses bring together the protagonist, her husband Collatine and the rapist Tarquin in a triangular constellation. In the drawing of these characters and their relationships, their generic construction is encrypted according to the social attributes and cultural expectations that fall on sex, in close relationship with the modes of appropriation of literary traditions and with the main socio-political processes.
Shakespeare modernizes his classic texts by moving them to Renaissance England to inquire into the mechanisms of construction of political and literary authority. Lucrece is an ideal object of admiration on the part of Collatine and an object of desire of Tarquin, who recognizes in she the materiality of her body, although dissociated from the will of the young woman. If Collatine manages to survive the pain of tragedy, it is a cause of an emerging political system (the government of consuls) that leads to his grieving. Tarquin, on the other hand, by means of the abolition of the political framework of which he is an exponent (the government of kings), suffers the condemnation for his criminal and thoughtless conduct, which early English Modernity begins to object to. In both cases, the symbolic order of the republic contemplates awards and punishments for men, but does not assign a specific space for victim woman, who can only think herself as a subject in the artistic level from the elaboration of pain for the crime perpetrated.
The Rape of Lucrece finds in the lyric the literary way to take part to her protagonist through the poetization of her pain, a process that stops and becomes a tragedy by not having the possibility of channeling it in the social sphere.
The poem presents in its first verses one of the defining problems of the topic of early modernity: the statute of desire. Within the framework of the anthropocentric and secular tendencies that characterize the English Renaissance, what is the nature of the erotic forces that claim their satisfaction and what role to assign them in social ties are questions that arise from The Rape of Lucrece.
The poem presents a Tarquin as a rapist in strictly social terms, so he does not cease to hold him responsible for the crime he perpetrated on Lucretia and, consequently, his subsequent tragedy.
In the composition of Tarquin, the Shakespearian poem gives the character of classical sources more literary and political complexity. Its desire dimension is the component that defines it as a modern subject, as in the link with desire is where the freedom of man is at stake: only from the recognition of himself as an autonomous entity, of the limits and scope of the faculties and own desires, is when the human being is admitted as a free individual. This recognition takes place from reflection and observation of the desire dimension to the burden of judgment. Tarquin disregards this mandate of Modernity.
The emerging government system helps Collatine go through its duel by assigning it a specific space to occupy and a role to play. He gathers his private lament for the sake of common welfare, a feature that defines the regime of consuls.
Objectified by a language that idealizes her, Lucrece can only obey the social mandates that are emitted in this discursive way.
Given its size, rape, then, constitutes a mandatory passage for the protagonist. This situation led Lucrece is subtracted from the place of object to which it has been reduced to try to participate of the elaboration of pain. The rhetorical display that follows outrage is the explanation of the element necessary to participate herself: language. Her extensive parliaments make up the search for words that can help to elaborate pain. In that composition, Lucrece must subject herself to the voice that shapes the duel and discovers the obsolescence and uselessness of the inherited traditions to do so.
Unlike the passage of her husband led to the government of consuls, she cannot elaborate her duel in the social order. The new social order does not recognize for women that rape is public, it force to her to grieve privately.
The Early Modernity of the English Renaissance, through the government of emerging consuls, is proposed as a social instance of men for men: the secular and anthropocentric process entails a gender brand. The woman does not find a place in the republic because she is not yet conceived as a subject of law: by not favoring the elaboration of the duel, the victim is victimized again. In the absence of a social space that absorbs pain, as achieved in the artistic sphere, suicide ensues.