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Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

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Quote #4

A better head her glorious body fits
Than his that shakes for age and feebleness:
What should I don this robe, and trouble you?
Be chosen with proclamations to-day,
To-morrow yield up rule, resign my life,
And set abroad new business for you all? (1.1.7)

When Titus refuses to be named emperor, does he become at least partially responsible for the chaos that ensues in Rome?

Quote #5

Rome, I have been thy soldier forty years,
And led my country's strength successfully,
And buried one and twenty valiant sons,
Knighted in field, slain manfully in arms,
In right and service of their noble country
Give me a staff of honour for mine age,
But not a sceptre to control the world:
Upright he held it, lords, that held it last. (1.1.7)

When Titus says he's too old and too tired to rule, he reminds us of a character Shakespeare develops about a decade after this play – King Lear, whose own retirement sets his country down the path of civil war and tears his family apart. This is clearly a concept that Shakespeare remained interested in throughout his career as a playwright.

Quote #6

Tribunes, I thank you: and this suit I make,
That you create your emperor's eldest son,
Lord Saturnine; whose virtues will, I hope,
Reflect on Rome as Titan's rays on earth,
And ripen justice in this commonweal:
Then, if you will elect by my advice,
Crown him and say 'Long live our emperor!' (1.1.10)

Uh oh, big mistake. Titus chooses Saturninus (even though he has just threatened Titus's life) to lead Rome because he is the late emperor's eldest son. What's interesting is that Titus has chosen the emperor according to the rules of primogeniture (the system by which eldest sons inherited their fathers' titles and wealth) and not by any kind of merit-based system. Titus says he "hopes" Saturninus will be a virtuous ruler, but we all know that doesn't turn out to be true. So, the play is very interested in how rulers should be chosen.

History snack: When Shakespeare wrote Titus, primogeniture was the mode by which crowns were passed on when kings died. Obviously, in Titus's Rome, the empery is decided by election, not primogeniture. But the fact that Titus chooses Saturninus over Bassianus suggests that Titus is a traditionalist.

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