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Comparson of Two Versions of the Story of Lucretia Essay

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Updated: Dec 10th, 2021

Women are traditionally considered to the fair sex. However, human history has known some women who have managed to make their memory worshipped in centuries due to their remarkable lives. Two pages are too short to mention all of them since the list that will start with the Virgin Mary, Jane of Arc, and other outstanding women can cover numerous volumes. Still, there is no necessity to enumerate them, the fact that their memory lives in our mind, literature, and art is a good tribute to their heroic lives. If we have mentioned art and literature as the source of memories of heroic women, it is necessary to mention a legendary Roman woman, Lucretia, whose heroic sacrifice has been a turning point of Roman history and a major theme of world literature and art.

Literature can serve different purposes and the same historical event can be interpreted by different authors in different ways that let them present their argument. Such is the case with Lucretia and the story of her rape and suicide. The present paper is devoted to the comparative analysis of the story of Lucretia as presented by Roman historian, Livy in his History of Rome and the character of Lucretia as depicted by Christine de Pizan, a medieval authoress, in her “City of Ladies”. Both authors present a different interpretation of the legend and the personality of Lucretia by the purposes of their writings: the primary aim of the historian, Livy, is to give the account of a historic event, while the main aim of de Pizan is to show the problem of women in society dominated by men.

Livy’s interpretation of the event is presented in the primary source, his History of Rome is a historical document and this specific character accounts for his manner of presentation of the event. Besides, the authorship of a man leaves its mark on the episode and its bare presentation of facts. The story of Lucretia is presented by its main purpose. The historian treated it as the chief cause of the coup d’état in Rome that put an end to the monarchy and gave birth to the Republic of Rome. He depicted the event from the point of view of its importance for Roman citizens who understood that it was impossible to submit to the monarchy of tyrannical rulers anymore. Lucretia inspired the beginning of revolution though she had no intention to do this. The key idea of the story is the final statement by Brutus, “I swear … never to tolerate Kings in Rome evermore, whether of that family of any other” (Livy par.3). Thus, the rape of Lucretia is recounted from the point of view of its historical significance.

As for the story of Lucretia as offered by de Pizan, it produces different effects due to the main aim of the authoress: she analyzes the personality of Lucretia, the place of a woman in society dominated by male authority, and she tries to defend her sanctity and fidelity. If emotions are omitted by Livy as unimportant, they prevail in de Pizan’s narration. Her style of narration is more emotional and she does not stick to historical details. She makes use of such words as “weeping”, “sobbing”, “shameless and dishonorable”, “rushed like madmen” (De Pizan par. 19). The final statement in the episode has nothing in common with the Revolution and the Republic. Besides, the Republic is mentioned in this version as an event of secondary importance. Thus, de Pizan states: “because of this outrage … a law was enacted whereby a man would be condemned to death for raping a woman” (par. 16). Rape as a moral trauma is at the center of the story.

Concluding, it is possible to state that the two versions of the same legend show that any historical event can be interpreted by different authors in their ways. A certain historical episode can be an account of historical development and a moral parable as well.

Works Cited

De Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. 2010. Web.

Livy. The Rape of Lucretia. The History of Rome. 2000. Web.

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