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Violence, Visual Metaphor, and the "True" Lucrece


Reanimating the 1980s critical discussion about how rhetoric in Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece effects and affects the poem's plot, this essay takes the ekphrastic scene at the center of the poem, in which Lucrece attempts to access a true Sinon hidden behind the painting's canvas, to demonstrate how visual rhetoric motivates Tarquin's rape of Lucrece and Lucrece's suicide. In these violent acts, Tarquin and Lucrece attempt to surpass obfuscating representations and access unmediated truth, but discover that such truth is not obfuscated, but rather constituted, by visual metaphor. Shakespeare's characters respond to this revelation by resurrecting visual metaphor, thereby carrying rhetorically inspired violence into Roman history.