This poem, published in 1594, is dedicated to the Right Honourable Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and Baron of Tichfield.

The dedication to Southampton is significantly different from that of the Venus poem in the previous year. Either their relationship had developed remarkably in the intervening year or it seems the poet has come more into the open in exposing their real relationship.

The dedication begins

THE LOVE I dedicate to your lordship is without end;

That's not what he's supposed to be doing, he's supposed to be dedicating a poem. Further on he says

What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours.

What's this 'being part in all I have'? A commoner was not supposed to talk to an earl in this way. It's much too familiar. I think we can safely deduce that we have equal talking to equal here. There's more to it. The wording implies a very intimate relationship. This type of wording is usually limited to close family members or lovers. What was only a suspicion in the Venus poem dedication becomes almost a certainty in this one. But we don't know who the poet is so we can't explore the precise relationship between these two men. If it is our present candidate, de Vere, he was a reputed homosexual, and this would fit the wording we're looking at here. But it's remarkable that the poet would have been so bold about it in print and that Southampton tolerated it.

Next follows The Argument. It's a one page prose summary of the action in the poem. To précis that

Lucius Tarquinius had his father-in-law murdered and took over the Roman kingdom without the people's vote. He and his nobles were now besieging Ardea. One evening each praised his wife, particularly Collatinus his wife Lucretia. They then go unannounced to Rome to see what the wives are doing. All are revelling, dancing, and so on except Lucretia who was at home with her maids. The king's son Sextus Tarquinius was so aroused by her beauty and chastity he secretly went back to Rome. She innocently welcomed him. He raped her that night. She sent for her husband and father, in their presence told what had happened, made them swear revenge, then stabbed herself to death. The Romans exiled the Tarquin family, abolished kingship, and set up consuls.

Our usual question: why did the poet want to write a 43 page (1855 line) story? A major incident in his life experience has to be written into it in some way. Although the poem was written from end to end as one piece, let's break it down into sections to help our analysis. On this basis, here's how the poet deals with the plot:

HOW IT ALL BEGAN (42 lines)

The poet wastes no time on preliminaries before Tarquin gets to Rome.


Line 43

But some untimely thought did instigate

His all-too-timeless speed, if none of those;

His honour, his affairs, his friends, his state,

Neglected all, with swift intent he goes

'Lust-breathed Tarquin' arrives at Rome and as the king's son is welcomed by the unsuspecting Lucrece. Her matchless beauty takes from line 53 to 89 to describe, then her greeting carries us to line 112. Next, 113

Far from the purpose of his coming thither,

He makes excuses for his being there:

He goes to bed after long discussion with Lucrece. The poet then moralizes in general terms, including line 148

So that in venturing ill we leave to be

The things we are for that which we expect;

And this ambitious foul infirmity

In having much, torments us with defect

Of that we have: so then we do neglect

The thing we have: and, all for want of wit,

Make something nothing by augmenting it.

The construction here seems a little strange. If the 'it' refers to 'ill' or even 'ambitious foul infirmity' it's a long way off.

But the poet has concluded his moralizing as a bystander by line 168.


Tarquin now begins the actions that lead to his downfall, line 169

And now the lustful lord leap'd from his bed

Line 183

Here pale with fear he doth premeditate

The dangers of his loathsome enterprise,

And in his inward mind he doth debate

What following sorrow may on this arise:

His debate within himself about the wisdom of what he wants to do goes on until line 273, when

Then, childish fear, avaunt! debating, die!

Respect and reason, wait on wrinkled age!

My heart shall never countermand mine eye:

Sad pause and deep regard beseem the sage;

My part is youth, and beats these from the stage.

Desire my pilot is, beauty my prize;

Then who fears sinking where such treasure lies?

Of course it's far too late for him to debate now. He should have listened to his conscience and obeyed it before he set out for Rome. That was the time to make the decision not to do it. Once he started his line of action it became progressively more difficult to turn back. That's how evil works.

Line 300

By reprobate desire thus madly led

The Roman lord marcheth to Lucrece' bed.

By line 365 his inner debate is ended

Into the chamber wickedly he stalks

And gazeth on her yet unstained bed.

The curtains being close about he walks,

Rolling his greedy eyeballs in his head:

Then he draws the curtain back and looks at her lying asleep. The description is detailed and includes

Her eyes, like marigolds had sheath'd their light...

Her hair, like golden threads, play'd with her breath,...

By line 420 we've reached

Her coral lips, her snow-white dimpled chin.

So far Tarquin has gradually talked himself into going ahead with his scheme but has not awakened Lucrece, and could still retreat.


Now he commits an irrevocable act, line 437

His hand, as proud of such a dignity,

Smoking with pride, march'd on to make his stand

On her bare breast,

This wakes her up. She has found him standing by her bed in the middle of the night, with a hand on her bare breast. She urges him to stop what he's doing. They discuss it back and forth. Line 475

But she with vehement prayers urgeth still

Under what colours he commits this ill.

He replies, line 495

'But will is deaf and hears no heedful friends;

Only he hath an eye to gaze on beauty,

And dotes on what he looks, 'gainst law or duty.

I have debated even in my soul,

What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed;

But nothing can affection's course control,

Or stop the headlong fury of his speed.

I know repentant tears ensue the deed,

Reproach, disdain, and deadly enmity;

Yet strike I to embrace my infamy.'

He threatens her, saying, if you deny me then I'll have to force you, then kill 'some worthless slave of thine' line 517

'And in thy dead arms do I mean to place him,

Swearing I slew him, seeing thee embrace him.

So thy surviving husband shall remain

The scornful mark of every open eye;

Thy kinsmen hang their heads at this disdain,

Thy issue blurr'd with nameless bastardy: ...

But if thou yield , I rest thy secret friend:

The fault unknown is as a fault unacted;'

She replies, calling on him 'by knighthood, gentry, ... by holy common law' then (line 573)

That to his borrow'd bed he make retire ...

Line 582

'My husband is thy friend, for his sake spare me;

Thyself art mighty, for thine own sake leave me;

Her reproaches continue to line 644, then line 645

'Have done,' quoth he; 'my uncontrolled tide

Turns not,...'

But she persists to line 666, then

'No more,' quoth he; 'by heaven, I will not hear thee:'

THE RAPE ( 15 lines)

Line 673

This said, he set his foot upon the light,

For light and lust are deadly enemies:

Shame folded up in blind concealing night,

When most unseen then most doth tyrannize.

The wolf hath seiz'd his prey, the poor lamb cries;

Till with her own white fleece her voice controll'd

Entombs her outcry in her lips' sweet fold:

For with the nightly linen that she wears

He pens her piteous clamours in her head,

Cooling his hot face in the chastest tears

That ever modest eyes with sorrow shed,

O! that prone lust should stain so pure a bed,

The spots whereof could weeping purify,

Her tears should drop on them perpetually.

But she hath lost a dearer thing than life, ...

And that's it. That's the rape. I've included every line so that you can judge for yourself whether you agree with me when I say that whatever caused the poet to write this long poem, it was not the actual rape of Lucrece that drew him to the story. He passes over the rape in 15 lines with no interest in pornography.


Line 690

This momentary joy breeds months of pain;

Line 717

For now against himself he sounds this doom,

That through the length of time he stands disgrac'd;

Line 736

He like a thievish dog creeps sadly thence,

Comments like this about Tarquin are interspersed with occasional comments about Lucrece's state of mind.

LUCRECE' LAMENT (333 lines)

Line 811

The nurse, to still her child, will tell my story,

And fright her crying babe with Tarquin's name;

The orator, to deck his oratory,

Will couple my reproach to Tarquin's shame; ...

Included in her lament quoted by the poet, and beginning at line 980 is a reiterative passage which needs special comment (Note 1).

Her quoted lament ends at line 1078.


Line 1079

By then, lamenting Philomel had ended

the well-tun'd warble of her nightly sorrow,

And solemn night with slow sad gait descended

To ugly hell; when, lo! the blushing morrow

Lends light to all fair eyes that light will borrow:

I think he means the nightingale stopped singing, night ended, and dawn came up. The poet describes Lucrece' sorrow until line 1120 where he quotes her continuing lament, and this quotation ends at line 1211. The poet moralizes further, including, line 1252

Though men can cover crimes with bold stern looks,

Poor women's faces are their own faults' books.


At line 1275 Lucrece asks her maid when did Tarquin leave. The maid replies, line 1277

'Madam, ere I was up,' replied the maid ...

Myself was stirring ere the break of day,

And, ere I rose, was Tarquin gone away ...

Lucrece takes paper, ink, and pen and writes a note to her husband Collatine asking him

(Line 1307) with

'Some present speed to come and visit me ...'

Presently in Elizabethan times meant, I believe, what it says: at once. But through the centuries the dilatory nature of humans has reduced it to mean in the near future.

She seals it and writes on the outside (line 1332)

'At Ardea to my lord, with more than haste'

The post attends and she delivers it,

Charging the sour-fac'd groom to hie as fast

As lagging fowls before the northern blast.

Now she has to wait for Collatine to come, and, line 1365

Pausing for means to mourn some newer way.


The lengthy and detailed description of this painting is one of the major sections in the poem, but it really has nothing to do with the poem, in my opinion. This is a significant diversion. Please see Note 2 for new information on this part of the poem.


The poet could have simply omitted the painting section and amended the opening of the next segment, starting at line 1583

But now the mindful messenger, come back,

Brings home his lord and other company;

Who finds his Lucrece clad in mourning black;

He asks her 'tell thy grief' and she tells him what has happened. Then line 1688

'But ere I name him, you, fair lords,' quoth she, -

Speaking to those that came with Collatine, -

'Shall plight your honourable faiths to me,

With swift pursuit to venge this wrong of mine;

Line 1695

At this request, with noble disposition

Each present lord began to promise aid,

As bound in knighthood to her imposition,

She asks, line 1701

'How may this forced stain be wip'd from me?'

Line 1709

With this, they all at once begin to say,

Her body's stain her mind untainted clears;

While with a joyless smile she turns away ...

Here with a sigh, as if her heart would break'

She throws forth Tarquin's name, 'He, he,' she says,

Line 1723

Even here she sheathed in her harmless breast

A harmful knife, that thence her soul unsheath'd:

And so she dies in front of them.


Line 1730

Stone-still, astonish'd with this deadly deed,

Stood Collatine and all his lordly crew;

Till Lucrece' father, that beholds her bleed,

Himself on her self-slaughter'd body threw;

Line 1751

'Daughter, dear daughter!' old Lucretius cries,

'That life was mine which thou hast here depriv'd ...

He continues to line 1771. Then, line 1772

By this, starts Collatine as from a dream,

And bids Lucretius give his sorrow place;

And then in key-cold Lucrece' bleeding stream

He falls, and bathes the pale fear in his face,

And counterfeits to die with her a space;

Till manly shame bids him possess his breath

And live to be revenged on her death.

Line 1791

Then son and father weep with equal strife

Who should weep most, for daughter or for wife.

The one doth call her his, the other his,

Yet neither may possess the claim they lay.

The father says, 'She's mine.' 'O! mine she is.'

Replies her husband; 'do not take away

My sorrow's interest; let no mourner say

He weeps for her, for she was only mine,

And only must be wailed by Collatine.'

This extraordinary war of words continues for some time, to line 1806.


Finally Brutus, a friend, (a much earlier one than the 'friend' of Julius Caesar), tells them to stop it and makes everyone swear their oath of revenge again. Next is the last stanza

When they had sworn to this advised doom,

They did conclude to bear dead Lucrece thence;

To show her bleeding body thorough Rome,

And so to publish Tarquin's foul offence:

Which being done with speedy diligence,

The Romans plausibly did give consent

To Tarquin's everlasting banishment.

And there the poem ends. Sextus Tarquinius does not pay with his life for his crime.

Although this poem was published a year later than the Venus poem, I find the Lucrece poem a little rougher in composition and construction. For example, line 1791, the poet says 'son and father weep with equal strife.' It's probably 'son-in-law' to be understood. And though the poet's vocabulary is very well tuned to modern usage, at line 1851 the words 'thorough Rome' instead of our 'throughout Rome' is either forced or Elizabethan usage was different(or perhaps it's a typo in the modern print version used here). But this type of comment is very minor criticism.

Using our arbitrary sectioning of the poem, let's see how it's put together. We'll do this by listing the sections with the longest first. The assumption here is that the poet writes most about what interests him most. Our sections 2 and 3 should be combined, because they both describe Tarquin's thoughts and behaviour about the proposed rape, leading up to the actual rape scene.



Tarquin overcoming his scruples (2 + 3)


Lucrece' lament (7)


Lucrece wakes, pleads with Tarquin (4)


The Troy painting (10)


The poet moralizes (8)


The arrival of Collatine, Lucrece dies (11)


Lucrece' letter to her husband (9)


Father and husband at odds (12)


If length is indicative of importance to the poet, his interests lie first, in how Tarquin's mind set leads to the rape; next, Lucrece' thoughts after the incident; third, they have a lengthy discussion about the rape before it happens; next, a painting that is only remotely connected - the 'rape' of Troy city in another era;- and then the moralizing of the poet. Sections 6 and 9 are just necessary parts of the action. But the arguing between father and husband over precedence in mourning the dead Lucrece is noteworthy. The opening, closing, and rape itself occupy only 106 lines.

I think we can reduce the parts of interest to us still further: Tarquin's scruples; the discussion before the rape; her lament afterwards; the poet's moralizing; the father and husband arguing; the painting. Within those six topics are, I suggest, the motives for the poet's writing this poem. They comprise 1451 lines, or more than 78% of the entire poem.

The poet had to clothe his long story with some believable characters and situations. As you know by now if you've read through this inquiry to this point, my position is that writers write their best and most on what they know best. We still have not been able to eliminate de Vere as a candidate for Shakespeare, so let's now see if the major elements in the poem fit de Vere's life experience.


If this is de Vere, he's telling us exactly what his mind went through while he was being sexually taunted and tormented by 18-19 year old Anne Vavasour when he was 30 and a married man. He knew no good could come of it, and yet driven by desire he went ahead and had the affair, cost himself his place in court, incurred his Queen's anger, and loss of his reputation.


This to me is a surprising element in this poem. She blames 'comfort-killing Night, image of hell!,' "I alone alone must sit and pine.' She thinks herself guilty for having lost her chastity she kept for Collatine, but yet could not refuse to accept his friend into her house; 'for thy honour did I entertain him' 'coming from thee, I could not put him back,' 'It had been dishonour to disdain him' and he complained of weariness, and talked of virtue. Why should cuckoos hatch in other birds' nests? She multiplies examples from nature. 'O Opportunity! Thy guilt is great.' She blames Sin, for sending Tarquin when Collatine should have come. She tells 'Mis-shapen Time, copesmate of ugly Night,... injurious, shifting Time, be guilty of my death, since of my crime.' She describes a list of things that are Time's glory. 'To cheer the ploughman with increaseful crops, and waste huge stones with little water drops,' Then she calls Time 'thou ceaseless lackey to eternity.' Next she begins her list of evil things for Time to wreak on Tarquin (Note 1), Then she looks in vain for 'some desperate instrument of death.' Finally, she decides she will never let Tarquin 'boast who did thy stock pollute' or smile at Collatine in secret thought. But she won't die until Collatine has heard the whole story and promised revenge.

This, with intermittent musings by the poet towards its end, carries us through the additional 188 lines to Section 9 and Lucrece' letter beginning at line 1275.

If this has any connection with de Vere it would seem to be Anne Cecil's continuing piteous complaints to her husband that she's done nothing wrong and loves him only. From that experience he would know the woman's side of the story.


This surely has to be where we can part company with de Vere. How can this fit into his life's pattern? Why would he spend 236 lines on this topic? We know, apparently, of no other mistress than Anne Vavasour, and it seems she pursued him. I'm not a great believer in long sustained pure invention. There must be some truth behind it. This would not apply to Anne Cecil, nor the Queen, and not to Elizabeth Trentham, who married him. Who then? There's no problem with Tarquin's part. He's just expressing uncontrolled sexual will, as he did earlier in the poem. This is consonant with de Vere's character, the man who wrote to Burghley that his money was to serve his purposes.

So what does Lucrece say? She conjures Tarquin, by high almighty love, by knighthood, gentry, and sweet friendship's oath, by her tears, her husband's love, holy human law, common troth, and heaven and earth; to go back to his borrow'd bed. 'Reward not hospitality with such black payment' 'mar not the thing that cannot be amended.' She points out that her husband is his friend, he himself is 'mighty.' She pleads for his pity. Is this the Tarquin she entertained? 'You wrong his honour.' You're not behaving as what you are, a king. Subjects learn from their princes. What will you be teaching? Lust? 'Hast thou command?' 'From a pure heart command thy rebel will.' This guilt 'would seem death-worthy in thy brother.' She appeals to his majesty: if you give way to these passions instead of being a king over them you'll be a slave to them.

The best match I can suggest in de Vere's life is when the Queen made unseemly advances to him when he was young. He may have had the thoughts expressed by Lucrece in this poem, but it's doubtful he would have said them aloud to his Queen. To me, this section is somehow unnatural. Presumably one does not stand debating a rape for 15 minutes before committing it. Once he woke her up the secret of his intentions was out. Whether he rapes her or not makes little difference now. If she lives, she may tell her husband the story of attempted rape. But who would believe she talked Tarquin out of it? One of them, it seems, will have to die.


This is the next longest section. It has almost nothing to do with the action of the poem. I believe I have proved it shows the poet was in Italy and was inside one of the great palaces there (Note 2). This would be an every day event for a nobleman, but not for a commoner.


This is a heightened version of what happened in de Vere's life. His detractors say that when Anne Vavasour told who was the father of her child (and was put in the Tower with the child) de Vere attempted to 'run away' but was pursued, caught, brought back and himself put in the Tower. The evidence seems inconclusive as to exactly what happened but he certainly had the experience of Anne Vavasour's 'telling' and a subsequent punishment. Anne Vavasour didn't kill herself, but both their lives were badly tarnished as a result of the amour.


This has nothing to do with the action. I haven't researched the sources sufficiently yet to see whether there's any evidence for its inclusion there. Probably there isn't, but in either case if de Vere is our man then it's a mirror image of the constant tussle between Burghley and de Vere for the body and soul of Anne Cecil, who mercifully died at age 32. She was forever torn between devotion and duty to one or other of these two completely opposite strong willed personalities.

Lastly, we should note in passing that Tarquin was not executed, but exiled from his native land, and de Vere was banished from the Court after the Vavasour incident.

To conclude, the poem seems consonant with de Vere's life, except for the anomaly of Lucrece' pleadings just before the rape which doesn't seem to fit his life, although it looks like an artificial construct. And whether the poet is de Vere or not, I think the long Painting episode shows that the poet visited Italy and was a guest in the great palace at Mantua where he was deeply impressed by Gulio Romano's work. This indicates that the poet was a nobleman.

If the poet is de Vere, the main character, Lucrece, would seem to be based on Anne Cecil, who protested her innocence and love for de Vere throughout her life, and was apparently unswerving in her devotion to him, marred only by being her father's daughter and so dependent on him as also de Vere himself seems to have been. Such was the character of the Queen's first minister that she too was dependent on him, and he steered the whole of England through tempestuous times for almost her entire reign of 45 years.

It seems that in later life, and perhaps even by the time of his reconciliation with Anne Cecil in 1581, de Vere became increasingly convinced of her innocence and therefore of his own wrong doing in rejecting her and her first child. If de Vere is the poet, we should expect to find this theme of Lucrece' innocence running through the poem, and I believe we do find it there. The other theme has to be Tarquin's disgrace, which is de Vere's double disgrace; first in doubting an innocent wife, secondly his unfaithfulness and breach of honour by having a child by Anne Vavasour, when he certainly should have known better. The poem aptly sums it up, line 211

What win I if I gain the thing I seek

A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy

And these telling lines starting at 204

Yea, though I die, the scandal will survive...

That my posterity...

Shall curse my bones, and hold it for no sin

To wish that I their father had not been.

That is the epitome of de Vere's personal life. And as the premier earl, whatever he does is virtually a matter of public record, line 1014

Gnats are unnoted wheresoe'er they fly,

But eagles gaz'd upon with every eye.

There's another corroborative point at line 1041

... so vanisheth

As smoke from Aetna, that in air consumes,

It's believed de Vere went to Sicily during his tour of the Continent (1575-6) and would have seen Mount Etna, an active volcano and unfamiliar sight that would have impressed the Englishman. It has some relevance to the poem as being in the vicinity of Italy, but Sicily was not part of Roman territory in the time of Roman kings.

Line 1131

So I at each sad strain will strain a tear,

And with deep groans the diapason bear;

For burden-wise I'll hum on Tarquin still,

While thou on Tereus descant'st better skill.

These four lines show the poet to be a very well educated man. Pipe organs began to be built in England in the late 900s AD. At first they were not allowed in churches as being too secular. They were well established by the 1500s when Shakespeare was writing. A diapason is an organ stop. It is usually the tallest pipe and produces the deepest sound. On a large organ a deep diapason stop note can virtually pulsate a whole church or cathedral. It's a fantastic experience when playing an organ. The burden is the refrain or chorus of a song, the chief theme. A descant is a melody extemporized or written and played or sung above the refrain or chorus in a treble part. This poet knows something about music performance and composition.

It also fits de Vere's background. You may remember in an earlier chapter ( Chapter 6) we quoted a professional organist who wrote of de Vere that he was a better musician than some professionals.

The Tereus reference is appropriate for Lucrece. Tereus was a son of Mars, Roman god of war. He married Procne, daughter of a king of Athens. Procne was melancholy without her sister and asked Tereus to go to Athens and bring her to Thrace, where Procne was. Tereus fell in love with the sister, Philomela, who resisted his attention. He cut out her tongue to make her unable to say what had happened to her, and sequestered her in a castle, telling her sister that Philomela was dead. But Philomela did manage to communicate with Procne who killed the son of Tereus. The gods intervened as the tragedy worsened, turning each of the four into a different kind of bird.

We may conclude that the poem elaborates on the theme of Lucrece as a paragon of virtue and that, if de Vere is the poet, he used his experience with Anne Cecil as a model.


These verses begin at line 980

Let him have time to tear his curled hair,

Let him have time against himself to rave,

Let him have time of Time's help to despair,

Let him have time to live a loathed slave,

Let him have time a beggar's orts to crave,

And time to see one that by alms doth live

Disdain to him disdained scraps to give.

Let him have time to see his friends his foes,

And merry fools to mock at him resort;

Let him have time to mark how slow time goes

In time of sorrow, and how swift and short

His time of folly and his time of sport;

And ever let his unrecalling crime

Have time to wail the abusing of his time'

('orts' are scraps, or refuse).

The word 'time' occurs 14 times in 14 lines.

A Stratfordian on the Web has said (after citing de Vere's Echo poem)

An even better comparison can be made between the competence of Shakespeare and the amateur hand of Oxford in his sonnet 'Love Thy Choice.'

I think he means contrast, not comparison. He then quotes de Vere

Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

Who filled your eyes with tears of bitter smart?

Who gave thee grief and made thy joys to faint?

Who first did paint with colours pale thy face?

Who first did break thy sleep of quiet rest?

Above the rest in court who gave thee grace?

Who made thee strive in honour to be best?

The whole poem is quoted, 6 more lines, as it's a sonnet. After some more quotations the writer concludes

All of Oxford's surviving poetry profiles a man who dabbled in verse - writing as a popular contemporary activity but who had no discernible proficiency in it. Predictable techniques such as alliteration are clumsily and excessively employed in a naive and obvious manner...


Why did the poet write 217 lines describing a painting depicting various scenes from the fall of Troy city? This has nothing to do with the action of Tarquin or Lucrece except in the vaguest way: she has been despoiled as was the city. The city's fall came about, so legend has it, because Paris of Troy stole Helen, the wife of the Greek king Menelaus, and the Greeks went to get her back. According to Homer, who told the story, it took ten years to do it, though I think 10 years was a cliché for 'a long time.'

Historically and chronologically Shakespeare is correct in dating this war before the Lucrece incident. Rome itself was said by some to have been founded by refugees from Troy city, (See my 'Is Our Civilization Dying?' chapter 6 'The Formative Phase' on my web site).

But back to the Lucrece poem. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (18 volumes; 1966 edition) says Shakespeare probably obtained from a literary source, such as Virgil's Aeneas, the information he describes as a painting.

Today we have the Internet as a resource, so let's do some original research that the Cambridge scholars could not do so easily in 1966. First, you can call up the Lucrece poem for yourself on the Web and check what I say about it. Next, the Cambridge scholars thought of Shakespeare as the man from Stratford on Avon, but we are testing the theory that it was de Vere.

We know that de Vere went to Italy as part of his European tour in 1575-6. It was the place to visit then, as the centre of the Renaissance. Thanks to Professor Nelson of Berkeley we have an itinerary for de Vere based on actual surviving documents. The cities de Vere is known to have visited are: Venice, his 'headquarters,' or 'base' while in that country, Genoa, Padua, Milan, Florence, Seina, and probably Rome and Sicily (Palermo). It's said elsewhere that 14 of the 36 plays attributed to Shakespeare are sited in Italy.

In the Lucrece poem we've already come across a reference to Mount Etna in Sicily, an active volcano over 10,000 ft. high and a tourist attraction. But what about the painting? If it is an Italian painting, whose was it. And the amount of detail we are given is so enormous it must have been a very large painting. Does Shakespeare ever mention an Italian painter by name? Yes, of all places in The Winter's Tale, act 5, scene 2, line 88

1st Gentleman: Are they returned to the court?

3rd Gentleman: No: the princess hearing of her mother's statue which is in the keeping of Paulina, - a piece many years in doing and now newly performed by that rare Italian master, Julio Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could put breath into his work, would beguile Nature of her custom, so perfectly is he her ape; - he so near to Hermione hath done Hermione that they say one would speak to her and stand in hope of an answer...

So now we have an Italian name: Julio Romano. You can look him up on the Web. Try Guilio Romano. You will find he was an architect as well as a painter and sculptor. He was Raphael's favourite pupil and took over the workshop and studio as the heir apparent at his master's death. His dates are given as 1492? or 1499? To 1546. These dates fit de Vere's tour dates, but did Romano ever paint scenes from the fall of Troy city?

One of Romano's most famous works was the Palace at Mantua, the Palazzo del Te, worked on from 1526 to 1534. This was a suburban villa-palace, built for Federigo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, and son of Isabella d'Este, one of the most cultivated and erudite of all Renaissance art patrons.

At work on the Gonzaga villa, and free of the weight of the orthodoxy of both old and new Rome, Guilio's 'manner' took precedence. His strange, chimerical imagination was most dramatically unleashed in his illusionistic fresco paintings for the interior rooms of the Palazzo del Te, but the architecture, too, is filled with complicated and unexpected effects.

You can find that quotation at Great Buildings On Line, on the Web.

So it wasn't an easel painting, it was a fresco, or a series of frescoes, and if he painted the fall of Troy city it would have been an interior mural that could have stretched a hundred feet. We know that de Vere's second wife bought King's Place for them which had 'a great balconied corridor 160 ft. long.' De Vere, the premier earl of England, would have had no problem in not just standing outside and gawking at the remarkable architecture as a tourist. He would have been invited in, and we know that he was fluent in Italian and Latin.

But, did Romano 'do' the fall of Troy inside that palace? We know he 'did' battle scenes. The Web produced a Stolen Art posting by the City of Los Angeles Chief of Police:

Guilio Romano - Battle Scene

Guilio Romano - Satyr and Mythological Figures

Then we find on the Web

The scenes of the Sulia di Troia at Mantua's Palazzo Ducale such as Laocoon and his sons 1536-40, painting a loggia on the 2nd floor - very long...

Who was Laocoon?

A priest of Apollo who opposed the admission of the wooden horse to the city in the Trojan war. As punishment two enormous serpents were sent to attack him. This they did while he was sacrificing to Neptune, accompanied by his two sons. The serpents coiling around the three crushed them to death

That's from Short Dictionary of Mythology, P.G. Woodcock, Philosophical Library, New York.

So now we know that there was in fact a vast painting depicting scenes from Troy city, by a leading Italian painter and architect whose work at the Palace at Mantua was regarded as one of the finest in the entire Renaissance period of art and literature. It was only 30 or so years old when de Vere went to Italy and so could have seen it.

Did he go to Mantua, and where is it? It's about 75 miles from Venice. Milan is about 95 miles from Venice, and Genoa about 75 miles from Milan. Going south-west from Venice, to Ferrara, 65 miles, on to Bologna, 30 miles, on the Florence, 50 miles more, on to Siona, 50 miles more, on the Rome, 120 miles. Although we don't apparently have an actual documented reference to de Vere's visiting Mantua, it's well within the range of the various northern Italian cities he is known to have visited.

The evidence from the Lucrece poem strongly suggests that the poet saw the Mantua frescoes and was profoundly impressed; so impressed in fact that he devoted 217 lines to describing what he saw, dragging his description into a poem which could well have done without it. Shakespeare has tied it together for us by another reference to the Italian artist's work in a much later play.

This seems to me to be compelling evidence that the poet visited Italy, and was a nobleman.

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