Titus Andronicus

An End and a Means to an End in Titus Andronicus and The Winter's Tale College

Two similarly flawed notions of love are presented in Shakespeare’s plays Titus Andronicus (TA) and The Winter’s Tale (TWT). Both are rooted in differing degrees of misogyny, yet diverge significantly in their overarching objective. The model of love portrayed in TA is an end in itself; the play does not necessarily condemn the treatment and plight of Lavinia—rather, it accepts her predicament matter-of-factly and displays her drawn-out demise with a detachment reminiscent of Titus’ temperament. On the contrary, while the marriage of Leontes and Hermione is tainted by jealousy and paranoia, it is visibly reprehended on all fronts. The chauvinistic king is ultimately penitent—his nature disapproved of by all surrounding characters and implicitly by the author himself—and a paragon of love in the form of Florizel and Perdita is held up as a counterpoint, providing an ideal standard for the purpose of contrasting with and underscoring the older relationship’s shortcomings. In that sense, TA provides a problem (or a series of problems), and TWT provides a similar set—but with an endorsed solution. One could say this distinction is the main component of their respective identities: a nihilistic tragedy and a romantic tragicomedy.


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