Sung Silence: Complicity, Dramaturgy, and Song in Heywood’s <i>Rape of Lucrece</i>


  • Andrew Bretz Department of English and Film Studies Wilfrid Laurier University



Heywood, theatre, music, dramaturgy, gender, Roman plays, Red Bull


The songs of Valerius in Thomas Heywood’s 1607 The Rape of Lucrece negotiate the line between ironic distance and genuine compassion for the victim of sexual violence. Valerius sings them as a traumatized response to his own complicity in the rise of the Tarquin regime, a trauma that effectively silences his participation in politics. His final song, ‘Did he take faire Lucrece by the toe man?’ acts as a metatheatrical return of the rape, which forces the audience to verbally re-enact the occluded violence, but also allows for Valerius to rediscover his voice and ability to act politically.

Author Biography

Andrew Bretz, Department of English and Film Studies Wilfrid Laurier University

Andrew Bretz ( is an adjunct instructor in the department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has recently published the Introduction to A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Rock’s Mills Press Made in Canada Series and a book chapter on Shakespeare on early network radio in Outerspeares: Shakespeare, Intermedia, and the Limits of Adaptation. He recently finished a post-doctoral project at the University of Guelph on portraits of Shakespeare. His doctoral dissertation looked at the representation of the rapist on the early modern stage.