Titus Andronicus Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
I may be pluck'd into the swallowing wombOf this deep pit (2.3.6)
The pit where Bassianus's dead body is dumped is described as a "swallowing womb" with "ragged entrails" covered in "maiden blood." This sounds like a horrific and very physical metaphor for Lavinia's raped and mutilated body. What on earth was Shakespeare thinking? Check out what we have to say in "Symbolism, Imagery, and Allegory" if you want to consider the implications of all this.
O Lord, sir, 'tis a deed of policy:Shall she live to betray this guilt of ours,A long-tongued babbling gossip? no, lords, no:[...]But send the midwife presently to me.The midwife and the nurse well made away,Then let the ladies tattle what they please. (4.2.22)
Aaron kills Tamora's nurse because he assumes that she's a "long-tongued babbling gossip" who will tell everyone that Tamora has given birth to Aaron's love child. As he sends for the midwife (who is also assumed to have a big mouth), Aaron cracks a misogynistic joke that once the nurse and midwife are both dead, they can "tattle what they please." Aaron's nasty remark suggests that all women are gossips and that he has found a clever way to punish them.
By now, it's clear that Titus Andronicus is interested in the issue of women's voices (or lack thereof). This passage reminds us of the way Demetrius and Chiron taunt Lavinia, daring her to "tell" on them after they cut out her tongue (2.4.1).
TITUS ANDRONICUS An if your highness knew my heart, you were.My lord the emperor, resolve me this:Was it well done of rash VirginiusTo slay his daughter with his own right hand,Because she was enforced, stain'd, and deflower'd?SATURNINUS It was, Andronicus.[...]Because the girl should not survive her shame,And by her presence still renew his sorrows.Because the girl should not survive her shame, And by her presence still renew his sorrows (5.3.3)
When Titus asks his dinner guests if they think Virginius (a Roman centurion) was right to kill his daughter (a rape victim), Saturninus's response makes our stomach turn. For Saturninus rape is a "shame[ful]" experience and an embarrassment for the victims' family members.
Titus agrees with Saturninus and immediately kills Lavinia. Critic Alexander Leggatt writes that "in Titus's act we feel the weight of the patriarchal society he has always served, in which Lavinia earlier seemed to be a pawn." Leggatt goes on to note that Titus "is preoccupied not with her grief but with her shame; the grief that matters is his own" (Titus Andronicus: A Modern Perspective).