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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
Critical Judgment of Lucrece
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1744  Friday, 5 September 2003

From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Thursday, 04 Sep 2003 08:47:47 -0700
Subject: 14.1737 Critical Judgment of Lucrece
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1737 Critical Judgment of Lucrece

Bob Grumman writes:

>So my question for this group is: do any
>of you know what any critics have said about Lucrece?  Have they, as I
>believe, considered it one of his lesser works?

Shakespeare was criticized by his contemporaries that Venus & Adonis was
too erotic!? Lucrece was an attempt to give his poetry more of a moral
standing.  It's all puff and no stuff as you might say.

Though Thomas Middleton seems to have liked it as he imitated it in his
own The Ghost of Lucrece (1600). He was not alone amongst the
Elizabethans and Jacobeans. Lucrece, by 1616, had been published six
times (Q1-Q6, though they are actually octavos) and was the anthology
king.

The Oxford Poet Thomas Freeman wrote "Who loves chaste life, there's
Lucrece for a teacher." (1614)

However, Douglas Bush exclaimed "Declamation roars while Passion
sleeps."

The Restoration folks had no time for the poem; they were too busy
adapting the plays! Coleridge thought it, at best, 'eloquent.' Of course
the Victorians were more interested in the gossip behind the poem. Was
Will sleeping with Henry (of the Wriothesely variety)?

Joseph Quincy Adams felt that Lucrece insinuated "how honest maids and
women should be on their guard considering the glory and praise that
commends a spotless life."

It was poet laureate Ted Hughes' favourite poem. But then, he was
married to Sylvia Plath!

But I'm sure Graham Hall will clear all of this up and provide some
dazzling acrostic riddle that reveals, to the mere mortals amongst us,
how the ultimate Lucrece commentary lies deep in the Utne Reader!

Colin Cox
Artistic Director
Will & Company

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