Sung Silence: Complicity, Dramaturgy, and Song in Heywood’s Rape of Lucrece

Andrew Bretz


The songs of Valerius in Thomas Heywood’s 1607 The Rape of Lucrece negotiate the line between ironic distance and genuine compassion for the victim of sexual vio­lence. Valerius sings them as a traumatized response to his own complicity in the rise of the Tarquin regime, a trauma that effectively silences his participation in politics. His final song, ‘Did he take faire Lucrece by the toe man?’ acts as a metatheatrical return of the rape, which forces the audience to verbally re-enact the occluded vio­lence, but also allows for Valerius to rediscover his voice and ability to act politically.

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