Titus Andronicus

Moving Towards Disaster: The Motif of Revenge in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus, the first tragedy written by William Shakespeare ca. 1590, is one of his most ambitious plays, full of recognizable themes and motifs which were later incorporated in his more mature works. Yet Titus Andronicus differs greatly from its successors, mainly due to the overt application of revenge perpetrated by its numerous and dangerous characters. As Eugene M. Wraith sees it, Titus Andronicus as a tragedy swiftly moves "towards a disaster for which the cause is established in the first minutes of action" (8).

Shakespeare accomplishes this movement towards disaster through the idiosyncrasies, actions and reactions of many characters bent on revenge via a long list of reasons. For instance, when Titus Andronicus, known for his victories over the barbarian Goths and candidate for the emperor of Rome, decides to sacrifice Alarbus, Tamora's eldest son, to appease the spirits of the Roman gods, the plot immediately commences on a full throttle movement towards revenge via Tamora, queen of the Goths and her two surviving sons, Demetrius and Chiron. This action then prompts Bassianus, the son of the late emperor of Rome, to kidnap Lavinia, the only daughter to Titus Andronicus, which sets into motion...

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