On the Literary Genetics of Shakspere's Poems & Sonnets

By T. W. Baldwin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
Basic Sources of Lucrece

In the dedication of Venus and Adonis Shakspere expresses the hope that he may honor his patron "with some grauer labour." We ordinarily assume that the reference is to Lucrece, since Shakspere did dedicate that also to Southampton the following year. Whether our assumption be true or false, at least Lucrece is a graver labor in the same ornate form, and is constructed along similar lines.

Lucrece also is basically from classical sources, principally from Ovid. The fullest treatment of the sources of Lucrece is, of course, that of Ewig. He begins by considering the question whether the argument to the poem was written by Shakspere. He presents a few trifling apparent variations of the argument from the poem, and then gives five instances in which the argument and the poem are said to agree together against all possible sources. As a matter of fact, this is not true in any one of the five cases, as we may see by examining them serially.

As to his first instance, Ewig says, "Die thatsache, dass Collatinus im zelte des Tarquin von der keuschheit seiner gemahlin gesprochen habe, finden wir nur bei Sh. in gedicht und in 'argument' erwähnt."1For a man of the Renaissance, however, the inference that the men were discussing chastity grows naturally out of Ovid's statement, and Marsus has made it, "Est in officio, in actu debito: hoc est, in obseruātia pudictiae."2 Shakspere may have made the inference directly from the text of Ovid or with the aid of Marsus, but in any case the inference derives from the text of Ovid, and Shakspere was not the first to make it.

Ewig's second instance derives directly from the text of Ovid. While no other source says directly that Tarquin left "early in the morning" as does Shakspere, yet Ovid says "Iamq + ́; erat orta dies,"3 when Lucrece began to take action, presumably immediately after Tarquin left. So while Ovid does not make the direct statement, yet the statement is a direct inference from the text of Ovid for anyone who cares to make it.

____________________
1
Ewig, E., "Shakespeare's 'Lucrece,'" Anglia ( 1899), Vol. XXII, p. 12.
2
Ovid, Fasti ( Basle, 1550), p. 144; see p. 110.
3
Ibid., p. 148.

-97-

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