January 26, 2014

There’s a version in another culture of the story the Romans tell about Lucretia in order to explain how the reign of the kings got overthrown and the Roman Republic got established.

The Roman myth is known as “The Rape of Lucretia,” and in the Augustan Roman historian Livy’s version of it, Lucretia is coerced into having sex with Tarquin (a king) by his threat of shaming her more by making it look as if she had had sex with a slave.

In this version in another culture, the Lucretia character rebuffs a suitor on the grounds that she’s married, he says, “Well, I can fix that,” and kills her husband.  He then forces himself on her.  She’s now a raped widow with orphans.  In her culture, she should marry her rapist.  In one variant, she kills herself rather than do this, in another, he refuses to marry her because he doesn’t want two families.  I don’t think this culture thought in terms of divorce, but if it had, I think he would have said, “What?  I can’t do that!  That would have a negative impact on my family!”

How should the male character resolve the situation?  Clearly the train left the station when he figured he should have more sex — whatever went into that “decision” is the problem.  If he is that same person, it is doubtful he will do something helpful, even if one assumes a helpful resolution exists in theory.  If he develops some further insight into himself and others as a result of this situation — we could imagine a variant, maybe the operatic version, in which he is moved to compassion in a final scene with swelling music — maybe he will at least voice the realization that he has created a situation in which he has enriched himself at the expense of others, no matter what he does now.

In a situation in which it is unclear what to do, there is always the “Phone a Friend” option — ask the universe, pray to God, look deep within for insight.  That may well be a lesson of the situation, to present the male character with a problem he can’t solve on his own.

I don’t actually know what understanding of what to do this male character would develop if he did that — in the variants I know, no epiphany comes because he isn’t willing to ask the universe or God and he hasn’t developed his ability to hear what wisdom lies within himself.  Maybe his amend is to live a changed life going forward and arrange for substitute care of those he has made destitute in the present.

In this other culture, the story doesn’t usher in a new world order abruptly.  It’s more of an illustration of how we are stuck with an old flawed one when people don’t learn from situations in which they are challenged to do more than think and behave in their usual patterns.


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