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Monday, January 27, 2020
Home Letters It is truly amazing how art follows life

It is truly amazing how art follows life

Dear Editor:

“Beauty itself doth of itself persuade
The eyes of men…”
William Shakespeare: The Rape of Lucretia (1594)

Your historical editorial (Amandala, 10/12/19), recounted the brutality of the conquest and enslavement of peoples. It contained some parallel themes from Shakespeare’s epic poem, The Rape of Lucretia.

Lucretia, a woman of unsurpassed beauty, was raped by Tarquin, a Roman soldier on home leave. Her husband was at the battlefront. The two men were military friends. She was virtuous. Her husband had bragged to Tarquin, about his wife’s unquestionable fidelity. Her innocence made her welcome Tarquin into their home because her husband said it was okay for her to do so. “He’s a fine fellow,” he assured her.  The ravishment and shame led her to commit suicide.

As I perked the rationales you provided for the ease with which Europeans “raped” the wealth of the Americas, I became aware of the similarities between the story and the history, certainly at the level of metaphor: a stranger (the European), enters unbidden into your private world (the Americas); he beholds a desirable prey (gold, silver and a lot of free land); it is unprotected (no stakeholders); you (the locals), are innocent in the ways of the wider world (no land boundaries); you do his bidding (become his slave) and in the end you kill yourself (syncretize).

In the poem, Shakespeare has the rapist blame Lucretia for her calamity. “You were too pretty for your own good” is a fair paraphrase of his excuse. You did not say the words, but the inference is there: Does a conquistador ever lay down his sword? It is truly amazing how art follows life.

A Happy belated Columbus Day to all.

Hart Tillett
City of Belmopan

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