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Themes

Critic S. Mark Hulse figures that Titus Andronicus "has 14 killings, 9 of them on stage, 6 severed members, 1 rape (or 2 or 3 depending on how you count), 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity, and 1 of cannibalism – an average of 5.2 atrocities per act, or one for every 97 lines." There's so much revenge-fuelled violence in the play that it becomes ridiculous, and at times its grisliness has a comical effect. For some, this suggests that Shakespeare is mocking the genre of the revenge tragedy that was so popular in his time. For others, the play's violence is indicative of a young, inexperienced playwright setting out to emulate Seneca's dramas.

Questions About Violence

  1. Explain why Titus kills his son Mutius.
  2. Analyze Marcus's strange and graphic description of Lavinia's raped and mutilated body and discuss its overall significance.
  3. How does Titus dispose of Demetrius and Chiron? Why does he choose the methods that he does?
  4. Is Aaron's punishment at the end of the play just, or is it simply a continuation of the cycle of violence?

Chew on This

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

When Lucius sentences Aaron to be buried up to his neck and left for dead at the end of the play, Shakespeare suggests that the cycle of violence in Rome will never truly end.

In the play, hunting becomes a metaphor for the kind of predatory violence the characters engage in.

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