Moving Like a Ghost: Tarquin’s Specter and Agentive Objects in The Rape of Lucrece, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth
All good ghost stories strike us as immediately familiar. As Shakespeare’s heirs, we know the story well, but from where? Is that Macbeth we see before us, his hand on Duncan’s door? Or do we spy on Brutus, reading a cryptic message in his balmy Mediterranean orchard? ‘Speak, strike, redress.’ The lightning suddenly becomes a meteor shower raining down on Rome. Perhaps we still misread—we see not Macbeth, nor Brutus, but Tarquin, the last Roman prince, stealing into Collatine’s room to rape his wife. The light dims to a candle flame—but only for a moment, until it falls prey to a cold tongue of midnight air.
For four centuries, we have read this way, dissecting Shakespeare’s tragic protagonists backwards, opening first their souls, then their minds, and, finally, their bodies to our critical gaze. More recent scholarship implores us to rethink the reading and writing of history and explore alternative histories, especially the histories of nature, of objects, of things.
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