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Thread: Titus Andronicus: Act IV

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    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Titus Andronicus: Act IV

    Please post your thoughts and questions on Act IV here.

    Scene I

    Scene II

    Scene III

    Scene IV
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  2. #2
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Well, I've decided to finish after a few months. Sorry but there was lots to read in addittion.

    Act IV is a strange act. Titus and his family realize the the full scope of what has been done to them. The rapists are discovered and they lay trap for Tamora's sons. But first Marcus has them kneel in a sort of religious dedication to revenge:
    MARCUS ANDRONICUS
    O, calm thee, gentle lord; although I know
    There is enough written upon this earth
    To stir a mutiny in the mildest thoughts
    And arm the minds of infants to exclaims.
    My lord, kneel down with me; Lavinia, kneel;
    And kneel, sweet boy, the Roman Hector's hope;
    And swear with me, as, with the woful fere
    And father of that chaste dishonour'd dame,
    Lord Junius Brutus sware for Lucrece' rape,
    That we will prosecute by good advice
    Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
    And see their blood, or die with this reproach.
    What's also interesting is how the integrate the boy Lucius into the action of revenge. Here he kneels down and swears along with the adults, but in the next scene he is the means through which they lay the trap to catch Chiron and Demetrius.

    What's really weird is the introduction of Aaron's baby. First of all it seems strange that a new motif gets introduced this late in the play. He saves it from infanticide, and though Aaron is the embodiment of evil and the baby is almost a new evil beng introduced into the world, Aaron treats the baby with such compassion and love.
    AARON
    Sooner this sword shall plough thy bowels up.

    Takes the Child from the Nurse, and draws

    Stay, murderous villains! will you kill your brother?
    Now, by the burning tapers of the sky,
    That shone so brightly when this boy was got,
    He dies upon my scimitar's sharp point
    That touches this my first-born son and heir!
    I tell you, younglings, not Enceladus,
    With all his threatening band of Typhon's brood,
    Nor great Alcides, nor the god of war,
    Shall seize this prey out of his father's hands.
    What, what, ye sanguine, shallow-hearted boys!
    Ye white-limed walls! ye alehouse painted signs!
    Coal-black is better than another hue,
    In that it scorns to bear another hue;
    For all the water in the ocean
    Can never turn the swan's black legs to white,
    Although she lave them hourly in the flood.
    Tell the empress from me, I am of age
    To keep mine own, excuse it how she can.

    DEMETRIUS
    Wilt thou betray thy noble mistress thus?

    AARON
    My mistress is my mistress; this myself,
    The vigour and the picture of my youth:
    This before all the world do I prefer;
    This maugre all the world will I keep safe,
    Or some of you shall smoke for it in Rome.
    And then the black man as a sign of evil is emphasized:

    AARON
    Why, there's the privilege your beauty bears:
    Fie, treacherous hue, that will betray with blushing
    The close enacts and counsels of the heart!
    Here's a young lad framed of another leer:
    Look, how the black slave smiles upon the father,
    As who should say 'Old lad, I am thine own.'
    He is your brother, lords, sensibly fed
    Of that self-blood that first gave life to you,
    And from that womb where you imprison'd were
    He is enfranchised and come to light:
    Nay, he is your brother by the surer side,
    Although my seal be stamped in his face.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    To Virgil: Kind of basic question never answered to my knowledge. Do you think Titus has as basic or perhaps backround theme, the early fratricidal history of Rome? Quasi

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quasimodo1 View Post
    To Virgil: Kind of basic question never answered to my knowledge. Do you think Titus has as basic or perhaps backround theme, the early fratricidal history of Rome? Quasi
    Frankly I can't see any right now. Revenge seems to be the only theme and that evil exists in the world. It seems to be a mish-mash of themes that never seem to be fulfilled: Responsibilty of a general, honor, ritual, family, and others. I can see them being formulated, but other than revenge, they seem to go no where. If I change my mind I'll come back and out lined the thoought.
    Last edited by Virgil; 10-25-2007 at 09:40 PM.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  5. #5
    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    Kind of basic question never answered to my knowledge. Do you think Titus has as basic or perhaps backround theme, the early fratricidal history of Rome? Quasi
    Quasi--It's possible that early Rome was on Shakespeare's mind. I hadn't really thought about it. Is there some particular place in the text that was making you go there? Without doubt a big influence on the picture of Roman society in Titus must have been the plays of Seneca. As someone who was intimately connected with the Emperors Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, Seneca witnessed first hand the excessive violence and madness that characterized those reigns (he himself barely escaped death at the hands of Caligula and Claudius and died a truly gruesome death when ordered by Nero to open his veins). Seneca's plays reflect the time he lived through in depicting the bloody horror of a state gone terribly wrong. Seneca was tremendously popular among the Elizabethans, and I think it is probably Senecan Rome that most influenced Shakespeare's Rome in Titus. It's also largely from Seneca that you get a lot of the bathos in Titus (just when you think it's at its wort it gets worse) and also the resignation to the presence of evil without justice in the world accompanied by a Stoic comfort with the idea of death (Seneca was also famously a Stoic philosopher). If you haven't come across Seneca before and are curious, here's the Wikipedia page. There are some links to texts of the plays (which are quite short) at the bottom. Thyestes in particular, with its cannibalistic feast, was pretty clearly an influence on Titus.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seneca_the_Younger
    Last edited by Petrarch's Love; 10-25-2007 at 09:39 PM.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

  6. #6
    in angulo cum libro Petrarch's Love's Avatar
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    What's really weird is the introduction of Aaron's baby. First of all it seems strange that a new motif gets introduced this late in the play. He saves it from infanticide, and though Aaron is the embodiment of evil and the baby is almost a new evil beng introduced into the world, Aaron treats the baby with such compassion and love.
    Yes, the introduction of Aaron's baby gives an unexpected depth to his character. I personally have always found him the most interesting character in the play. In many ways it is very characteristic of the way Shakespeare deals with some of his villains. He'll take a "bad guy" and suddenly turn him around to show some very humane characteristic in him. Some scholars have compared Aaron's character, especially in light of this scene, with Shakespeare's later portrait of Shylock, and I think there's something to that in that both are villains, but villains that belong to marginalized groups in their society and villains who show moments of humanity and express their anger at the injustice of their positions as men belonging to a hated minority group. Both characters also share a common source, since both are derived, at least in part from the character of Barabas in Marlowe's Jew of Malta. The influence of this character on Shylock I think needs no explanation, but Aaron's character is also very clearly influenced by Barabas. Most notably Aaron's speach in 5.1.124-144 is generally recognized as being modeled after a similar litany of evil deeds in The Jew of Malta:

    Quote Originally Posted by Shakespeare--Titus
    AARON
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Marlowe--Jew of Malta
    BARABAS. As for myself, I walk abroad o' nights,
    And kill sick people groaning under walls:
    Sometimes I go about and poison wells;
    And now and then, to cherish Christian thieves,
    I am content to lose some of my crowns,
    That I may, walking in my gallery,
    See 'em go pinion'd along by my door.
    Being young, I studied physic, and began
    To practice first upon the Italian;
    There I enrich'd the priests with burials,
    And always kept the sexton's arms in ure<80>
    With digging graves and ringing dead men's knells:
    And, after that, was I an engineer,
    And in the wars 'twixt France and Germany,
    Under pretence of helping Charles the Fifth,
    Slew friend and enemy with my stratagems:
    Then, after that, was I an usurer,
    And with extorting, cozening, forfeiting,
    And tricks belonging unto brokery,
    I fill'd the gaols with bankrupts in a year,
    And with young orphans planted hospitals;
    And every moon made some or other mad,
    And now and then one hang himself for grief,
    Pinning upon his breast a long great scroll
    How I with interest tormented him.
    But mark how I am blest for plaguing them;--
    I have as much coin as will buy the town.
    But tell me now, how hast thou spent thy time?
    I feel as though the Aaron character is something of an experimental rough draft for later characters like Shylock. Shakespeare has not accomplished as smoothly nuanced a transition between villain and sympathetic man and father (the shift with Aaron is fairly rough, abrupt, and not satisfactorily sustained), but I see a glimmer of the sort of masterful characterization we'll see from this playwright later starting to show through in this scene with the baby.
    Last edited by Petrarch's Love; 10-25-2007 at 10:16 PM.

    "In rime sparse il suono/ di quei sospiri ond' io nudriva 'l core/ in sul mio primo giovenile errore"~ Francesco Petrarca
    "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."~ Jane Austen

  7. #7
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Thanks Petrarch. I instantly thought of Shylock when that human side of Aaron came out. Even the name Aaron is very old Testament. I think that further suggests Shakespeare was thinking of The Jew of Malta in creating this character.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    If grace is an ocean... grace86's Avatar
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    It was suggested in my Shakespeare course that Aaron saved his child from being killed so that he can succeed him. I am not sure if it is in act IV or later on (sorry if I am getting ahead) that he never regretted any evil thing he did, that if he had had more time, he would only conspire to doing more evil deeds. Was it fatherly loved that saved his child?...hard to think that someone who could make so strong a statement could succumb to that; as I said, maybe in some sick way he was hoping his son could succeed him in his evil ways. But in all truth, he did love Tamara (that was her name right? sorry not thinking) and she did want the child murdered. I think in another respect Aaron wanted the child to be spared so as to commit further evil and convict her of her adultery.

    Just some thoughts....feel like I am impeding on the conversation
    "So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about, the way....He loves us..."


    http://youtube.com/watch?v=5xXowT4eJjY

  9. #9
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grace86 View Post
    It was suggested in my Shakespeare course that Aaron saved his child from being killed so that he can succeed him. I am not sure if it is in act IV or later on (sorry if I am getting ahead) that he never regretted any evil thing he did, that if he had had more time, he would only conspire to doing more evil deeds. Was it fatherly loved that saved his child?...hard to think that someone who could make so strong a statement could succumb to that; as I said, maybe in some sick way he was hoping his son could succeed him in his evil ways. But in all truth, he did love Tamara (that was her name right? sorry not thinking) and she did want the child murdered. I think in another respect Aaron wanted the child to be spared so as to commit further evil and convict her of her adultery.

    Just some thoughts....feel like I am impeding on the conversation
    No you're not impeding. I think you made very good points. He does want the child to suceed him in his work of evil (I don't know why I'm getting images of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies , maybe because I saw parts of them over last weekend) but I do sense a touch of fatherly sensibility. In addition to the Aaron quote I quoted above there is this a little after in that scene:
    AARON
    Why, there's the privilege your beauty bears:
    Fie, treacherous hue, that will betray with blushing
    The close enacts and counsels of the heart!
    Here's a young lad framed of another leer:
    Look, how the black slave smiles upon the father,
    As who should say 'Old lad, I am thine own.'
    He is your brother, lords, sensibly fed
    Of that self-blood that first gave life to you,
    And from that womb where you imprison'd were
    He is enfranchised and come to light:
    Nay, he is your brother by the surer side,
    Although my seal be stamped in his face.
    Of course an actor could play this in a couple of different ways.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  10. #10
    If grace is an ocean... grace86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Of course an actor could play this in a couple of different ways.
    Very true, I guess it depends because any of the aspects of Aaron's behavior could be portrayed (this tragedy is going to be on my midterm on 11/5 so I guess this is good review). This is probably why Shakespeare has lasted into modern times, I think that any one of the ideas we have for motives/reasons for Aaron keeping his child has kind of survived into modern days. Shakespeare's characters are so complex and versatile.

    I think that Aaron is the pivotal and most complex character in this tragedy. I think a lot of what goes on in this play is largely due to him (I feel like I'm stating the obvious) any way...my brain is farting, just trying to stay in the loop on Litnet.
    "So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about, the way....He loves us..."


    http://youtube.com/watch?v=5xXowT4eJjY

  11. #11
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by grace86 View Post
    I think that Aaron is the pivotal and most complex character in this tragedy. I think a lot of what goes on in this play is largely due to him (I feel like I'm stating the obvious) any way...my brain is farting, just trying to stay in the loop on Litnet.
    I agree he's pivotal and much of what goes on is because of him. But I find Titus more complex though. He makes many decisions, some of which surprise us. Like killing his son in the first Act and turning down the emperor's crown. And begging for his son's lives and having his arm cut off for them. And of course the revenge plot, going so far as to feed Tamora her own children's flesh. And even killing his own daughter in pity for her. I don't think Aaron rises to all that.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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