Lucrece: William Shakespeare employs internal conflict as one of the major techniques in his poem, The Rape of Lucrece. In literature, internal conflict refers to the psychological struggle a character experiences as they debate in their mind on what to think or do or otherwise not to. This technique focuses on specific characters in a piece of literature.in this case, William Shakespeare uses the concept in his work with particular references to Tarquin and Lucrece and the experiences the two characters go through in the poem. The style, internal conflict, plays a pivotal role in the piece by shaping the thoughts, decisions, and actions of Tarquin and Lucrece in a variety of ways.
Tarquin’s internal debates are triggered by his fellow soldier, Collatine, who describes Lucrece, his wife to Tarquin in a way that initiates a sense of admiration towards her. The internal conflict worsens when he encounters her. Here, we see Tarquin restlessly caught between the desire for Lucrece and the implications of being discovered because of his lustful thoughts and behaviors. He is found in a dilemma on whether to pursue his physical desires at the expense of his reputation or maintain his well-earned reputation by foregoing his desire. From a psychological point of view, David Buss (118) explains that the dilemma posed by internal conflict is, most of the time, the struggle between emotional desire and ethical concerns.
Tarquin’s desire for Lucrece, which creates ideas of raping her, is an emotional issue. However, the consequence of him being discovered for this lustful deed is an ethical problem in the sense that, he would be labeled a disgrace despite his high status and reputation. To this end, the conflict emerges on the importance by weighing possible outcomes of a decision before making a choice. As it applies to Tarquin, conflict within a person helps in re-evaluating a decision before acting on it for purposes of making the best out of a situation. This aspect is portrayed when Tarquin asks reevaluates his options by asking “and wilt though be a school where Lust shall learn?” and “wilt though be glass wherein it shall discern authority for sin, warrant for blame, to privilege dishonor in thy name?”
Further, into the poem, we realize that after a long and deep contemplation, Tarquin’s emotions conquer his reason and the result of this is seen by him making way to Lucrece’s chamber. The use of the concept of a person debating with himself, at this point brings out the role of emotions in the decision-making process. We realize that even after extensively thinking about the severe repercussions of the lustful deeds for a man of his status, he becomes a victim of his internal debate by following his strong emotions that outweighs his logic. In their analysis, Matbouli, Hipel, and Kilgour (79) observe that when a decision-maker reevaluates his intentions, it is usually because he challenges his status quo. In an conflict, the goal of a decision-maker is to obtain the most preferred possible state.
Tarquin’s objective is to fulfill his emotional desire for Lucrece, and this is portrayed in most parts of the poem. The idea of compromising his image while in pursuit of his lustful wishes only serves as a challenge to his objective and something that he needs to get rid of. This shows that sometimes internal debate does not contribute to the decision one makes. Tarquin knows what he wants, and his conflicting thoughts only help by analyzing the various ways to get what he wants. For instance, while thinking about raping Lucrece, the idea of wooing her pops up instead of raping her to safeguard his image. However, he realizes Lucerne is a married woman who would not give in to his desires. Therefore, regardless of potential consequences, he goes ahead and rapes her.
For someone who has thought about the consequences of unacceptable behavior against someone’s else’s wife, the internal debate does not help to define Tarquin’s behavior. Lucrece begs him not go ahead with the act by saying “my husband is thy friend, for his sake spare me” and further goes to tell him “if ever man were moved with woman moans, be moved with my tears, my sighs, my groans,” but all these fall on deaf ears. He forces himself on her and makes her submit to him by threatening her with murder and also dishonoring her name.
Lucrece’s internal debate comes after going through the traumatizing rape ordeal. She becomes horrified and horrorstruck. Shakespeare uses the line, “but she has lost a deeper thing than life” to demonstrate the extent of the impact of the ordeal on her. Some of Lucrece’s fears include the darkness that has brought the experience, the world finding out her secret, and her husband, Collatime, becoming forever shamed. It is for these reasons that she debates with herself about her ravishment.
Lucrece’s state of internal conflict is somehow complicated from that of Tarquin in various levels. Her sense of dilemma which is between taking her own life or being shamed. The traumatic event and her fears about the outlooks of her husband and friends cause conflicting thoughts in her mind. Unlike the case of Tarquin, however, the series of internal debates influence her main objective which is death. Regardless of thinking multiple times about her husband and what he would feel like, she goes ahead and daggers herself right before him. She, however, does this out of fear of her name being dishonored just as Tarquin had threatened which is a valid reason from her perspective because she had also been threatened with death. Whatever decision she would have taken it would lead to a loss for her.
The two experiences bring out the
concept of internal conflict and how it influences a person’s decision or how
it does not. The two instances of a person debating with self differ
substantially in relation to the driving
forces behind the dilemmas and how the characters arrive at a decision. Tarquin
is an example of an individual who disregards the challenges of his decision
but later they catch up with him. He is also the embodiment of a person who
lets his emotions override his logic. Although there is some logic into the
decision arrived at by Lucrece, there is also the element of emotions overpowering
her sense of reason. She commits suicide out of grief. The aspect of making the
best decision out of a situation as a result of conflicting outcomes as the
concept of internal conflict dictates, does not, however, surface in the poem
except people who are decisive about what they want and how to get it.
Buss, David. Evolutionary psychology: The new science of the mind. Psychology Press, 2015.
Matbouli, Yasser T., Keith W. Hipel, and D. Marc Kilgour. “Characterization of a conflict.” Systems, Man, and Cybernetics (SMC), 2013 IEEE International Conference on. IEEE, 2013.