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Titus Andronicus Theme of Revenge

Titus Andronicus is considered a "revenge tragedy," a genre that was made popular in the 16th century by Thomas Kyd (Spanish Tragedy) and John Webster (White Devil). As such, it features a seemingly endless cycle of bloody vengeance that nearly destroys Rome and takes down the city's most important political figures. While the play seems to take grisly pleasure in its over-the-top acts of vengeance, it also suggests that revenge reduces everyone to the status of wild animals. (For more on Titus Andronicus as a revenge tragedy, see "Genre.")

Questions About Revenge

  1. Explain why Tamora wants revenge against Titus. Why does she go after the man's family?
  2. How does Titus trick Tamora into eating her own children? Why is that Titus's chosen form of revenge?
  3. What, if anything, motivates Aaron to destroy the Andronicus family?
  4. Do you think Titus Andronicus is meant to be a serious revenge tragedy, or do you think it makes fun of the genre? (Psst. Go to our discussion of "Genre" if you need a definition of revenge tragedy.)

Chew on This

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

Vengeance turns human beings into predatory animals in Titus Andronicus.

Shakespeare is mocking the genre of the revenge tragedy in this play.

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