Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

History and Poetry in William Shakespeare’s Lucrece

Krystyna Kujawińska Courtney



This essay demonstrates the interrelationship between the historical source (Livy, Ab Urbe Condita LVIII-LX) and the literary source (Ovid, Fasti, II. 721-852) present in the construction, or rather, in “the artistic scheme,” of Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece. The “Argument,” written in prose and the text of the narrative poem reveal Shakespeare’s synchronic engagement with both Clio and Calliope. The synergistic interaction between the two parts proves that Shakespeare either consciously or unconsciously joined the ongoing discussion on the interaction between history and poetry. Falling in line with the sixteenth-century debate on the credibility of historical sources, the reading of Lucrece encourages the reader to judge the so-called authenticity or actuality of past events as depicted in different genres of literary texts. In other words, as a two-part structure Shakespeare’s Lucrece invites the analysis of the relationship between history/historiography and poetry, in which one of the essential elements is the question of the process of interpreting both historical and poetic narrative texts and their use of language, style, form and literary genre.


Shakespeare, William; Theatre; Historical sources; Literary sources; Rape of Lucrece


Copyright (c) 2012 Krystyna Kujawińska Courtney

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