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To the Right HONOURABLE, HENRY WRIOTHESLEY Earle of Southhampton, and Baron of Titchfield.
end: whereof this Pamphlet without beginning is but a superfluous Moity. The warrant I haue of your Honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutord Lines makes it assured of acceptance. What I haue done is yours, what I haue to doe is yours, being part in all I haue, deuoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duety would shew greater, meane time, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship; To whom I wish long life still lengthned with all happinesse. Your Lordships in all duety.
By ISRAEL GOLLANCZ, M.A.
THE EARLY EDITIONS
The first edition of “LUCRECE” was published in quarto in 1594, with the following title-page:
“LVCRECE | LONDON. Printed by Richard Field, for John Harrison, and are to be sold at the signe of the White Greyhound | in Paules Church-yard. 1594 | .” 1
The running title is “The Rape of Lvcrece.” The Bodleian Library copies of this edition differ in some important readings, showing that the text was corrected while passing through the press. Seven new editions appeared by the year 1655; the 1616 issue purported to be “newly revised," but the variant readings are of very doubtful value.
THE SOURCE OF THE PLOT
The story of Lucrece had been treated by many English writers before Shakespeare chose it as the subject of "the second heir of his invention. Chaucer told her story in his Legend of Good Women, quoting “Ovid and Titus Livius” as his originals (cp. Ovid's Fasti, ii, 741; Livy, Bk. 1, chs. 57, 58). Lydgate treated the same theme in his Falls of Princes; Painter, in his Palace of Pleasure, 1567. There were other English renderings, notably “ballads” entered on the Stationers' Registers in the years 1568, 1570; a ballad was also printed in 1576.
Shakespeare seems to have read Ovid's version, and this may be considered his main source.2
1 Cp. No. 35, Shakespere Quarto Fac-similes.
2 Cp. Baynes' essay on Shakespeare and Ovid, with reference to his early poems (Fraser's Magazine, xxi.).
THE DATE OF COMPOSITION
In the dedication of Venus and Adonis to the Earl of Southampton, the poet had vowed “to take advantage of all idle hours” till “I have honored you with some graver labor.” Lucrece must therefore have been written after the dedication containing these words, and before its entry on the books of the Stationers' Company, i. e. between April, 1593 and May, 1594.
Like the former poem, Lucrece was also addressed to Southampton: it is instructive, however, to compare the two dedications; between the first and second letters timid deference towards an exalted patron has ripened into affectionate devotion.
A comparison of the two companion poems, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, the one a study of “female lust and boyish coldness,” the other of “male lust and womanly chastity,” brings out prominently the advance made in the later poem in respect of ease and versification, maturity of observation, and didactic tendency. This latter superiority seems to have been noted by Shakespeare's contemporaries >
“Who loves chaste life, there Lucrece for a teacher:
(FREEMAN's Runne and a Great Cast, 1614.) 1 The earliest allusion to Shakespeare by name occurs in connection with a reference to his Lucrece, in the commencing verses of a laudatory address prefixed to “Willobie his Avisa," 1594. In the same year the author of an Elegy on Lady Helen Branch included among "our greater poetes":-“You that have writ of Chaste Lucretia": Drayton's reference, in his Matilda, also in 1594, may have been to a play on the subject, as, in all probability, was Heywood's allusion in his Apology for Actors, 1612. Heywood's play on Lucrece is not devoid of merit. In 1595 the following words are found in the margin of a curious volume, entitled Polimanteia, published at Cambridge:-"All praise worthy Lucrecia Sweet Shakspeare."
Sir John Suckling's “supplement of an imperfect Copy of Verses of Mr. Wil. Shakespears” appears at first sight to commence with two six-line stanzas, representing a different and perhaps earlier recension of Lucrece, but this is doubtful, and in all probability the alterations were Sir John Suckling's, the verses being derived from one of the books of Elegant Extracts, c. g. England's Parnassus.