While the theatres were closed due to the plague in 1593/94, Shakespeare wrote his epyllion The Rape of Lucrece that has also been described as a dramatic long poem. He opens the poem with Tarquin and his lust, and he makes the soul central from the beginning; the soul hence becomes one of the keys to understanding the text. The chapter shows how the epyllion becomes a drama in which antagonistic characters – Tarquin and Lucrece but also body and soul – act and interact. The characters in the epyllion are given a psychological motivation for their deeds, and the implied allegory is diversified in that it is combined with introspection. Shakespeare changes his source material to this effect: he re-motivates the Roman myth in making the protagonists representative of inner forces and as having individual minds that debate and reflect on their actions.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.