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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND BARON OF TICHFIELD.
THE love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety? The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would shew greater; mean time, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with happinesse
Your lordship’s in all duty,
I-a superfluous moiety.] Moiety in our author's time did not always signify half; it was sometimes used indefinitely for a portion or part. See vol. x. p. 6, n. 4. Malone.
- THE ARGUMENT.
LUCIUS TARQUINIUS (for his excessive pride surnamed Superbus) after he had caused his own father-in-law, Servius Tullius, to be cruelly murdered, and, contrary to the Roman laws and customs, not requiring or staying for the people's suffrages, had possessed himself of the kingdom; went, accompanied with his sons and other noblemen of Rome, to besiege Ardea. During which siege, the principal men of the army meeting one evening at the tent of Sextus Tarquinius, the king's son, in their discourses after supper every one commended the virtues of his own wife; among whom, Collatinus extolled the incomparable chastity of his wife Lucretia. In that pleasant humour they all posted to Rome; and intending, by their secret and sudden arrival, to make trial of that which every one had before avouched, only Collatinus finds his wife (though it were late in the night) spinning amongst her maids; the other ladies were all found dancing and revelling, or in several disports. Whereupon the noblemen yielded Collatinus the victory, and his wife the fame. At that time Sextus Tarquinius being inflamed with Lucrece' beauty, yet smother
* This argument appears to have been written by Shakspeare, being prefixed to the original edition of 1594 : and is a curiosity, this, and the two dedications to the earl of Southampton, being the only prose compositions of our great poet (not in a dramatick form) now remaining.
To the edition of 1616, and that printed by Lintot in 1710, a shorter argument is likewise prefixed, under the name of Contents; which not being the production of our author, nor throwing any light on the poem, is now omitted. Malone. vol. xx.