From the November 2014 School of Night series of live, interactive online Shakespeare classes. Dr. Michael Delahoyde, Professor of English & Humanities at Washington State University, discusses Shakespeare’s “graver labour,” The Rape of Lucrece.
This follow-up long poem to mega-hit Venus and Adonis is a strange piece indeed. Right after her horrific rape, Lucrece, Roman paragon of womanly virtue, takes a tour of the art on her own walls for about a tenth of the entire poem. What is Shakespeare saying about the relevance of “reading” art and applying it to one’s own circumstances and experiences? We’ll observe the Italian paintings of the Trojan War that have been identified as having inspired Shakespeare, although that too poses a significant problem. But what is this poem really about, and why is it a “dramatic” poem rather than an actual play?
Michael Delahoyde is a professor in the Department of English at Washington State University where he has been teaching Shakespeare and interdisciplinary humanities courses for 22 years. Delahoyde has published articles on Shakespeare, Chaucer, dinosaur films, children’s toys, and meat ads, and has been consulted and interviewed by producers at the Discovery Channel and Cinema Secrets, and by various magazines. He currently is managing editor for Brief Chronicles and frequently serves as a consultant on children’s books concerning monsters. Recently he has given authorship lectures in the San Francisco Bay Area through the California Shakespeare Theater's outreach program.