On Bodies Politic, Mutilated, and Murdered in Titus Andronicus

1449 WordsJun 7, 20126 Pages
On bodies politic, mutilated, and murdered in Titus Andronicus Critics of the rise of violence on television today decry the images of murder, rape, abject violence, and even torture to which we are exposed. They reason that as we are subjected to more and more violent images we will necessarily become desensitized to them and even accepting of their place in our society. What then would these modern day critics think of the piles of corpses, body parts, and violent assaults on the human form that littered 16th century English stages performing William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus? Everything old is new again. The trope of violence to convey a message is not a recent invention. It is as old as the problems of society it means to…show more content…
Raping Lavinia does not make her less likely to share Tamora’s betrayal with the emperor. It does not advance their security or Tamora’s. It merely serves to release the unpious desires they allowed to build within themselves. The rape’s addition of cruelty and violence only underscores the morally bankrupt nature of Chiron’s and Demetrius’ actions, as a symptom of the general loss of course among the Roman populous without competent leadership at the head. Titus’ sacrifice of his hand in an attempt to spare the lives of his sons Quintus and Martius is not only the loving act of a father to his sons, but also the courageous and charitable recognition of the potential of his brother and son Lucius. While the act itself was falsely proposed by Aaron as another way to exact revenge on behalf of his lover for the death of her son, and overthrow of her Gothic rule, Titus sees some nobility and honor in his sacrifice. The juxtaposition of bodily harm for revenge and honor as revealed in Aaron’s and Titus’ motivations is striking not only in the particular setting but also as proxy for our larger societal uses of violence. And interestingly, Aaron need not be the only example of one motivated to violence by revenge. One of Titus’ first actions in the play after his return from an honorable ten-year battle in the name of Rome and sacrifice of 21 sons to the cause is to murder Tamora’s eldest and captured son Alarbus. It does not

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