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Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

Language and Communication Quotes Page 1

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Quote #1

Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON with LAVINIA, ravished; her hands cut off, and her tongue cut out (Stage Direction, Act 2, Scene 4)

This is one of the most startling stage directions in Western literature. Demetrius and Chiron have not only raped Lavinia, they have also mutilated her body so that she is unable to name her attackers verbally or in writing.

Quote #2

DEMETRIUS
So, now go tell, an if thy tongue can speak,
Who 'twas that cut thy tongue and ravish'd thee.
CHIRON
Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so,
An if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe.
DEMETRIUS
See, how with signs and tokens she can scrowl.
CHIRON
Go home, call for sweet water, wash thy hands.
DEMETRIUS
She hath no tongue to call, nor hands to wash;
And so let's leave her to her silent walks. (2.4.1)

After assaulting Lavinia, Chiron and Demetrius proceed to taunt their victim, daring her to "tell" on them when they've made it impossible for her to speak or write down their names. Something very similar occurs later in the play when Aaron kills Tamora's nurse. Keep reading ...

Quote #3

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)

By now it's clear that Titus Andronicus is interested in the issue of women's voices (or lack thereof). 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's cracks a misogynistic joke about how once the nurse and midwife are dead, they can "tattle what they please." Aaron's nasty remark suggests that all women are gossips but that he has found a clever way to punish them.

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