Petrarchism demonised : defiling chastity in the two gentlemen of Verona, the rape of Lucrece and Titus Andronicus

04 Jul 2019

In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Rape of Lucrece and Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare responds to the cult of Petrarchism in Elizabethan England, exploring the darker reaches of Petrarchan devotion by way of creating demonic incarnations of the Petrarchan lover whose idealisation of their mistresses takes an extreme, sexual form, catalysing intimately invasive action such as rape or attempted rape. Through an attentive reading of the Petrarchan topoi used by the characters in these texts, this article argues that Shakespeare endeavoured to criticise the idealising force of Petrarchism by revealing its violent potential.