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Castigating Livy: The Rape of Lucretia and The Old Arcadia

  • Debora Shuger (a1)


The final books of The Old Arcadia rewrite two episodes from Livy's History: the rape of Lucrece and the execution of Brutus's sons. These episodes, which dominate Livy's account of the birth of the Roman republic, provide early modern republicanism with its foundational narrative, one that associates monarchy with aristocratic sexual license, and republicanism with the impartial rule of law. Sidney's plot hinges on this conflict between "unbridled desire" and "never-changing justice," and yet in flat contrast to both ancient and Renaissance republicanism, the work seems to privilege equity over law, clemency over justice, noble natures over impersonal codes. In what follows, I have tried to recover the unfamiliar politics - not republican and yet scarcely absolutist - structuring The Old Arcadia.



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