Tag Archives: the rape of Lucrece

Elizabethan Freestone’s Stage Performance of the Rape of Lucrece: Lucrece’s Self-Representation as Victim in the Power Play of Men (Published)

The response to the story of rape in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece has traditionally focused mainly on the literary representation of sexual violence or its political consequences. This paper uses Elizabeth Freestone’s adaptation of The Rape of Lucrece, staged at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2012, to explore the tensions between the representation of rape from a female perspective and the dominant social, moral, and sexual discourses around rape that have shaped the reception of the poem.[1] This paper argues that Freestone’s adaptation, a mixture of narration and singing performed by Camille O’Sullivan, dramatizes sexual violence by transforming the physical experience of rape into narrative storytelling, which allows a more powerful and immediate way of witnessing the act of violence. While Freestone’s adaptation emphasizes a woman’s subjective experience, it also makes the audience feel a sense of shame for participating in a voyeuristic activity. More importantly, however, it goes beyond the traditional portrayal of male brutality and female innocence by having O’Sullivan perform the roles of both Tarquin and Lucrece. This adaptation allows us to see how rhetorical and physical sexual violence against women was embedded in the cultural apparatus of the objectification of women by men in early modern England; it also urges us to reflect on the existence of such violence in modern times, which is often concealed and more complex than in the past. 

[1] For this study, RAPE OF LUCRECE (filmed 20 March 2011) directed by Elizabeth Freestone was used. As for the film, see SBT DVD ref. RSC/TS/2/2/2001.RAP1 (running time 82 minutes).

Keywords: Camille O’sullivan, Rape, Sexual violence, doubling, objectification of women, the rape of Lucrece