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Revenge Rape and Murder in Titus Andronicus…

Revenge, Rape and Murder in Titus Andronicus: How many and why they happen?

Act.Scene: 1.1

1. MURDER. Alarbus (son of Tamora, Queen of the Goths) limbs lopped off and entrails removed and burned by the remaining 4 sons of Titus. Happens offstage.

2. MURDER. Mutius (son of Titus) stabbed by his father for stopping him going after Bassianus and Lavinia.

Act.Scene: 2.3

3. MURDER. Bassianus (brother to Emperor Saturninus and newly wed with Lavinia) stabbed and thrown into a pit by Demetrius and Chiron (sons of Tamora) for threatening to expose Aaron’s affair with Tamora.

Aaron then sets up Martius and Quintus (sons of Titus) for the murder of Bassianus with a faked letter and buried gold. And urges Chiron and Demetrius to the following…

4. Rape and Mutilation Lavinia (daughter of Titus and recently bereaved wife of Bassanius) raped and mutilated (hands chopped off and tongue cut out) by Demetrius and Chiron. Her uncle Marcus finds her and delivers some 25 lines of verse whilst she bleeds idly by.

Act.Scene: 3.1

5. Mutilation. Titus hand chopped off by Aaron. Supposedly setting his sons free by doing this.

7. + 8. MURDER. The heads of Martius and Quintus plus his hand are returned to him soon after. This drives him mad.

Act.Scene: 3.2

9. MURDER. Marcus (brother to Titus, uncle to his kids) stabs a fly to death. Titus tells him off for doing so, until Marcus says the fly was black like Aaron.

Act.Scene: 4.2

10. MURDER. Nurse (who brings the bastard child of Aaron and Tamora for Aaron to kill) is in turn stabbed by Aaron. She squeals like a pig as she dies. Weke, weke, he says.

11. MURDER. The midwife is killed by Demetrius and Chiron on Aaron’s orders. Happens offstage.

Act.Scene: 4.4

13. MURDER. A clown who brings a letter and some pigeons along with a knife from Titus is hanged by Saturninus (the emperor). Happens offstage. Titus has been bothering Saturninus by shooting burning arrows into Rome.

Act.Scene: 5.2

14. + 15. MURDER. Chiron and Demetrius have their throats slit by Titus and Lavinia collects their blood in a basin. Their bones are crushed and made into a paste and their heads are baked in a pie.

Act.Scene: 5.3

16. MURDER. Lavinia is stabbed by her father Titus at a dinner where Tamora has just eaten the pie made of her sons.

17. MURDER. Titus stabs Tamora.

18. MURDER. Saturninus stabs Titus.

19. MURDER. Saturninus is stabbed by Lucius (last remaining son of Titus who has raised an army of Goths and is also attending the banquet).

20. MURDER. Aaron is buried to the chest in the earth and starved to death on the new emperor Lucius’ orders.

21. Aaron’s baby presumably gets a pass and isn’t murdered.

The Peacham drawing is one of the earliest stage drawings of Titus Andronicus. There is some controversy as to whether it represents Sh’s version or a German translation of it.

Found the Dutch version of Aaron and Titus by working-class poet Jan Vos (John the Fox). Still curious about those other German translations of Sh plays published in 1620 under the name of Tragodien und Komodien: Titus en Aaron can be read at this linkage for the Dutch readers. All links open in a new window.

Obviously then Titus has history and was a popular hit in his time. The wiki-wik file for Titus is long and can be read here.

But is it a fiction of Sh’s creation? Or is it based on this chapbook? Or is it based on this ballad? Both are anonymous and undated. Whatever…

Titus is often reviled as infra dig and too bloody and too early to be any good. But it stands as a guide to themes that will be explored in Sh’s later works.

The play starts with and raises the question of hereditary succession to a throne. Our hero Titus is offered the throne and refuses. The warrior who refuses to become politician. Shades here of Bolingbroke in Henry the fourth, Macbeth, and Coriolanus.

Aaron is universally acknowledged as the most evil character in Shakespeare. Check his words. (And note the killing the fly reference).

Lucius asks:
Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?
Aaron replies:
Ay, that I had not done a thousand more.
Even now I curse the day—and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse,—
Wherein I did not some notorious ill,
As kill a man, or else devise his death,
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it,
Accuse some innocent and forswear myself,
Set deadly enmity between two friends,
Make poor men’s cattle break their necks;
Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears.
Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’ doors,
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.

In Aaron we find shades of other Shakespeare nasties such as Iago in Othello and Edmund the bastard in King Lear. Or even Richard the humpbacked King.

Madness is another theme dealt with whether pretended or real as in Hamlet and again King Lear.

The flaring up of passions from nowhere as Titus taking his brother Marcus to task for killing that fly is reminiscent of Leontes flash of Jealousy in Winter’s Tale.

A phrase like ‘let it be so’ is found in act 1 scene 1 line 168 (Open Source Shakespeare. Try this plug in for searching their works from your own browser).

Shakespeare’s words website found me 11 results for that exact same phrase:

King John II.i.408 let it be so. Say, where will you assault?
King John IV.ii.67 let it be so. I do commit his youth
King John V.vii.96 let it be so. And you, my noble prince,
King Lear I.i.108 let it be so! Thy truth then be thy dower!
King Lear I.iv.302 let it be so. I have another daughter,
Othello I.iii.284.2 let it be so.
The Merchant of Venice MV II.ii.105 but let it be so hasted that supper
The Merchant of Venice MV V.i.300 let it be so.
The Merry Wives of Windsor MW V.v.235.2 let it be so. Sir John,
The Two Noble Kinsmen TNK V.i.33.1

Speaking of verbal parallels how about Demetrius talking about getting Lavinia without resorting to harsher methods in

Tit II.i.82:
She is a woman therefore would be wooed. She is a woman therefore would be won.

Kinda echoes Pandarus with his:
our kindred, though they be long ere they are wooed, they are constant being won: in act 3 scene 2.

or Don Pedro in Much Ado about Nothing:
Here, Claudio, I have wooed in thy name, and fair Hero is won:

How about Theseus in MND I.i.17:
Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries;

And now it’s starting to get parallel phrasing with Suffolk in Henry 6th part one, V.iii.78:
She’s beautiful, and therefore to be wooed;
She is a woman, therefore to be won.

And a final parallel phrasing in Richard 3rd just coz it’s getting late and i want to post this. R3 I.ii.228:
Was ever woman in this humour wooed?
Was ever woman in this humour won?

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