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Titus Andronicus Theme of Race

At first glance Titus Andronicus presents the "civilized" Romans and "barbarous" Goths as racial opposites, but this is quickly overturned when the play blurs the differences between the two groups. The play also dramatizes some 16th century attitudes toward race and skin color. Aaron the Moor's dark skin is associated with evil, and he displays a hyper-sexuality that Elizabethans often associated with black men. At the same time, Shakespeare also raises the possibility that Aaron's motives for vengeance may originate in the way society views him.

Questions About Race

  1. Are the Goths as "barbarous" as Marcus says they are?
  2. Discuss how the play pits the Romans and the Goths against each other.
  3. Discuss how Aaron's skin color sets him apart from the other characters in the play.
  4. What are the Romans' and Goths' attitudes toward Tamora and Aaron's interracial affair?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Although the Roman characters frequently refer to foreigners like the Goths and Moors as "barbarous," the play makes it clear that the Romans are equally guilty of barbarism. In the first act alone we see the Romans make a human sacrifice, and the play's hero thinks nothing of killing his own son.

Shakespeare draws upon 16th century racial stereotypes in his characterization of Aaron the Moor. Aaron's dark skin is synonymous with his dark and evil soul, and he also displays a hypersexuality that the English associated with black men.

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