Titus Andronicus

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“Rome is but a wilderness of tigers” (III.i.54) is the perfect summation of the conflicts and juxtapositions Shakespeare makes between morals, ethics and philosophies; many ideas of which are introduced and foreshadowed in I i of Titus Andronicus. Shakespeare presents us with characters so set in their own views of honour, justice and piety, that it may seem there is a clear line between what is right and wrong and just, however, he systematically proceeds to blur that line through the insistence and attachment each character has to their own moral code. This brings into question the difference between ‘civilised and barbarian...good and evil...religious and irreligious’ and who is the more of the either extreme, the Romans or the Goths. It may be poignant to note that in the first folio this play has the full title of ‘The Most Lamentable Romaine Tragedie of Titus Andronicus’. The inclusion of the word ‘Romaine’, immediately asks its reader to acknowledge that a central theme of the play is going to revolve around Roman times and therefore values and traditions. Rome has long been considered as the founder of modern day civilisation; the strong doggedness on order, tradition, a moral code, righteousness and honour all point to Rome as the didactic leader of the world. Yet this Rome has always been set in contrast to its cruel spectator sports and thirst for blood. Are these not, by modern standards anyway, the signs of ‘barbarism’? Against this backdrop of conflicting ideals Shakespeare introduces other hypocrisies and opposite ideologies to bring readers into the light, or rather into the darker areas of human conflicts where boundary lines are greyed. (Ettin, 1970:329)

Titus is named in I i as a ‘Patron of Virtue, Rome’s best champion...surnamed Pius’, alluding to his strong beliefs and practices. Obviously all very good qualities to posses. He stands in contrast to Tamora and Aaron who have both been called ‘ravenous tiger(s)’, the two main figures of...
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