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Lucrece
Argument

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THE ARGUMENT

Lucius Tarquinius, for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus,
after he had caused his own father-in-law Servius Tullius to be cruelly
murdered and, contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not
requiring or staying for the people’s suffrages, had possessed himself
of the kingdom, went accompanied with his sons and other noblemen
of Rome to besiege Ardea; during which siege, the principal
men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius,
the King’s son, in their discourses after supper every one
commended the virtues of his own wife; among whom Collatinus
extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that
pleasant humor they all posted to Rome, and intending by their secret
and sudden arrival to make trial of that which every one had
before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife, though it were late
in the night, spinning amongst her maids; the other ladies were all
found dancing and reveling or in several disports; whereupon the
noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory and his wife the fame. At
that time Sextus Tarquinius, being inflamed with Lucrece’ beauty,
yet smothering his passions for the present, departed with the rest
back to the camp; from whence he shortly after privily withdrew
himself and was, according to his estate, royally entertained and
lodged by Lucrece at Collatium. The same night he treacherously
stealeth into her chamber, violently ravished her, and early in the
morning speedeth away. Lucrece, in this lamentable plight, hastily
dispatcheth messengers, one to Rome for her father, another to the
camp for Collatine. They came—the one accompanied with Junius
Brutus, the other with Publius Valerius—and, finding Lucrece attired
in mourning habit, demanded the cause of her sorrow. She,
first taking an oath of them for her revenge, revealed the actor and
whole manner of his dealing, and withal suddenly stabbed herself.
Which done, with one consent they all vowed to root out the whole
hated family of the Tarquins; and, bearing the dead body to Rome,
Brutus acquainted the people with the doer and manner of the vile
deed, with a bitter invective against the tyranny of the King, wherewith
the people were so moved that with one consent and a general
acclamation the Tarquins were all exiled and the state government
changed from kings to consuls.