Titus Andronicus Language and Communication Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle hands
Have lopp'd and hew'd and made thy body bare (2.4.1)
Here Lavinia stands before her uncle in the woods, unable to explain that she has been raped, her tongue cut out. Yet this isn't the first time Lavinia has been silent. If we think back to the play's opening act, when Bassianus claimed Lavinia as his fiancée and ran off with her, Lavinia was completely silent then as well. It seems like Lavinia's lack of voice is symbolic of her general lack of power as a young Roman woman.
Why dost not speak to me?
Alas, a crimson river of warm blood,
Like to a bubbling fountain stirr'd with wind,
Doth rise and fall between thy rosed lips,
Coming and going with thy honey breath. (2.4.1)
Instead of trying to help Lavinia recover from her obvious wounds in the woods, Marcus delivers a very long, drawn out speech describing her mutilated body. Here, as Marcus describes the blood flowing from Lavinia's mouth, the description seems to eroticize her wounds in the manner of love poetry that seeks to compare the human body to things in nature (lips like roses, breath like honey, and so on). Compare this strange speech to Shakespeare's Sonnet 18.
Shall I speak for thee? shall I say 'tis so?
O, that I knew thy heart; and knew the beast,
That I might rail at him, to ease my mind!
Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopp'd,
Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is. (2.4.1)
In the previous passage, we suggested that Marcus's long, melodramatic speech was creepy and inappropriate given the circumstances (he has just found Lavinia raped and bleeding in the woods). For critic Stanley Wells, when Marcus's speech is delivered onstage by a great actor, it can become "a deeply moving attempt to master the facts and thus to survive the shock, of a previously unimagined horror" (Shakespeare: A Life in Drama). So, what do you think?