TW: This post contains references to sexual assault in a Classical context.
Paus[es] for means to mourn some newer way.
From here, the poem becomes ekphrastic as Lucrece considers different aspects of the painting. What made her think of Troy? Lucrece, at this moment, sees herself as a battered city and draws the comparison even tighter by noting that the people of Troy watch out their windows at the approaching Greeks who have come
The poem goes on to reference other key figures before zeroing in on Hecuba weeping over Priam’s wounds.
References to Troy and the Trojan War in Shakespeare (and contemporaries) was ubiquitous. As far as allusions go, it may only fall second to Biblical in Shakespeare’s cannon. A quick search using the keywords “Troy” and “Trojan” returns results from 18 of the 38 plays. This does not include references to specific characters, so the number of allusions is probably higher.
It makes sense. The purpose of an allusion (a reference to another text) is to provide a shorthand for the reader or audience to gain a deeper understanding of the situation. Lucrece referencing Helen’s rape alludes to the Trojan prince, Paris, abducting and raping Helen, prompting the eventual destruction of Troy. This allusion, in one line of poetry, accomplishes much. First, the idea that Helen was raped is one version of the story. By presenting this version, Shakespeare underscores that despite her guilt, Lucrece was also blameless in the act. Furthermore, by comparing herself to Helen, and imagining the people of Troy looking out at their death because of what happened to Helen, Lucrece amplifies the pain that this act will have not just on her but everyone around her. To take this even further, this aspect of the poem foreshadows events Lucrece is unaware of—that Tarquin’s rape of Lucretia brought about the end of the Roman Kingdom and beginning of the Roman Republic.
Not bad for one line of poetry.
Or take the following allusion from Julius Caesar:
I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
Here Cassius is trying to explain how he is better than Caesar by comparing himself to Aeneas carrying his father from the burning city of Troy—an image that is synonymous with filial loyalty and duty. Of course, Cassius is attempting to corrupt the moment, but the image is one that anyone in the 16th century with the most basic education would be familiar with and would be able to mentally conjure to add to Cassius’s speech.
If the allusions are so ubiquitous across the canon, why hone in on them for an exploration of 3 Henry VI (3H6)? There may be at least 18 plays which contain references to this famous war, but the allusions play out different in 3 Henry VI: the allusions function more like the ones in The Rape of Lucrece than in other plays.
*The exception to all of this is Troilus and Cressida, a play that is in part a retelling of Homer’s Iliad—for the purposes of this commentary, I will be setting that play aside.
Looking at the other 16 plays, the allusions function as images to help the audience better picture the quality of a character or moment. When the deposed King Richard II is being led to prison, the queen comments on his fallen state, calling him “the model where old Troy did stand” (R2 V.i). This image, in few words, conjures up the idea of the fall of a once-thought impregnable city.
If not just passing images or a single extended reference (see Hamlet, II.ii), how does the Trojan War play into 3H6? First, with again the exception of Troilus and Cressida for obvious reasons, 3H6 contains the most references to the war, to a point where the allusions become more noticeable than they probably should be. But it is not just quantity: the allusions seem to be intrinsically tied into the question of “who is right?”
Let him that is a trueborn gentleman
And stands upon the honor of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me.
Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me. (1H6 II.iv)
She-wolf of France, but worse than wolves of
Whose tongue more poisons than the adder’s tooth:
How ill-beseeming is it in thy sex
To triumph like an Amazonian trull
Upon their woes whom Fortune captivates.
But that thy face is vizard-like, unchanging,
Made impudent with use of evil deeds,
I would assay, proud queen, to make thee blush.
To tell thee whence thou cam’st, of whom derived,
Were shame enough to shame thee, wert thou not
Thy father bears the type of King of Naples,
Of both the Sicils, and Jerusalem,
Yet not so wealthy as an English yeoman.
Hath that poor monarch taught thee to insult?
It needs not, nor it boots thee not, proud queen,
Unless the adage must be verified
That beggars mounted run their horse to death.
’Tis beauty that doth oft make women proud,
But God He knows thy share thereof is small.
’Tis virtue that doth make them most admired;
The contrary doth make thee wondered at.
’Tis government that makes them seem divine;
The want thereof makes thee abominable.
Thou art as opposite to every good
As the Antipodes are unto us
Or as the south to the Septentrion.
O, tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide,
How couldst thou drain the lifeblood of the child
To bid the father wipe his eyes withal,
And yet be seen to bear a woman’s face?
Women are soft, mild, pitiful, and flexible;
Thou, stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless.
Bidd’st thou me rage? Why, now thou hast thy wish.
Wouldst have me weep? Why, now thou hast thy will;
For raging wind blows up incessant showers,
And when the rage allays, the rain begins.
These tears are my sweet Rutland’s obsequies,
And every drop cries vengeance for his death
’Gainst thee, fell Clifford, and thee, false
Frenchwoman! (6H3 I.iv)
Environèd he was with many foes,
And stood against them, as the hope of Troy
Against the Greeks that would have entered Troy. (II.i)
Farewell, my Hector and my Troy’s true hope. (IV.viii)
And so obsequious will thy father be
E’en for the loss of thee, having no more,
As Priam was for all his valiant sons. (II.v)
Come, thou new ruin of old Clifford's house;
As did Aeneas old Anchises bear,
So bear I thee upon my manly shoulders. (2H6 V.ii)
But in this troublous time, what's to be done?
Shall we go throw away our coats of steel
And wrap our bodies in black mourning gowns,
Numb'ring our Ave Marys with our beads?
Or shall we on the helmets of our foes
Tell our devotion with revengeful arms? (3H6 II.i)
Well, say there is no kingdom then for Richard,
What other pleasure can the world afford?
I'll make my heaven in a lady's lap
And deck my body in gay ornaments,
And 'witch sweet ladies with my words and looks.
O miserable thought, and more unlikely
Than to accomplish twenty golden crowns!
Why, Love forswore me in my mother's womb,
And, for I should not deal in her soft laws,
She did corrupt frail Nature with some bribe
To shrink mine arm up like a withered shrub;
To make an envious mountain on my back,
Where sits Deformity to mock my body;
To shape my legs of an unequal size;
To disproportion me in every part,
Like to a chaos, or an unlicked bear-whelp,
That carries no impression like the dam.
And am I then a man to be beloved?
O monstrous fault to harbor such a thought!
Then, since this Earth affords no joy to me
But to command, to check, to o'erbear such
As are of better person than myself,
I'll make my heaven to dream upon the crown,
And, whiles I live, t' account this world but hell
Until my misshaped trunk that bears this head
Be round impaled with a glorious crown. (III.ii)
I'll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slyly than Ulysses could,
And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
Helen of Greece was fairer far than thou,
Although thy husband may be Menelaus;
And ne’er was Agamemnon’s brother wronged
By that false woman as this king by thee. (II.ii)
From whence shall Warwick cut the sea to France
And ask the Lady Bona for thy queen;
So shalt thou sinew both these lands together,
And having France thy friend, thou shalt not dread
The scattered foe that hopes to rise again. (II.vi)
To tell thee plain, I aim to lie with thee.
To tell you plain, I had rather lie in prison.
Why, then, thou shalt not have thy husband's lands.
Why, then, mine honesty shall be my dower,
For by that loss I will not purchase them. (III.ii)