Gender Roles In Titus Andronicus And The Rape Of Lucrece

Feminism has always been represented in pieces of literature to reinforce the idea that objectifies woman and uphold masculine dominance. The writings of Ovid majorly influenced William Shakespeare as he attempts to challenge some of the social constructs. He develops alternative feminine voices in his plays. Several examples in the plays reveal how women must utilize a voice outside what is typically known as feminine to gain power from the brutal events like rape and mutilation. The women prove how men can manipulate and misinterpret how women communicate. Ovid's exploration of gender and masculine communication serves as a model for Shakespeare's way of giving women voices. Their testimony, which is a central component of healing in trauma theory, helps the female rape victims because rape victims are allowed to communicate their violations using alternatives channels.

Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and The Rape of Lucrece, are some of the examples where violence is as a channel for women to obtain revenge because the masculine dominance of the society has surprised their voices. Instead, women do not own an independent view of feminism. Shakespeare portrays the dominating patriarch figures that are more familiar with his audience. Feminine power exists as a result of the gruesome acts they endure; women who are victims of violence like rapes and mutilations depicted in Titus Andronicus and the Rape of Lucrece can only extend themselves outside the masculine dominance to demonstrate their need for revenge. Thus, social norms make women submissive and meek to enable male dominance over women. Therefore, Shakespeare's play reveals the social position of women that remain restricted within the male-dominated authority.

William Shakespeare plays depicts how gender and feminists and masculinity are characterized and how the differentiation reveals our view of his world, including the social norms acceptable to him and which norms he challenged using his plots and characters. The testimonies of these women are essential in showing their violations through alternative channels. In Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare portrays females as submissive within the Roman context. The play reveals the struggle of women to have a voice in a world dominated by men. According to Kahn 48, Titus embodies paternal authority and demonstrates the gendered ideal of character types of early Roman virtus. Women characters such as Lavinia are consistently expected to be submissive to the patriarchal figures around her. She struggles to get the right channel of expression. The Rape of Lucrece, a poem written after Titus, also presents the central female character with the freedom that tests the boundaries of both feminine and masculine voices. Thus, the testimonies of these women are important in showing their violations they cannot overcome.

Ovid's model, such as Metamorphoses and Philomela are examples that Shakespeare uses to explore the relationship between what he considers as a feminine voice and how he portrays masculine dominance in his plays. This literature forms the foundation that scholars argue or discuss gender discourses when reviewing Ovid and Shakespeare's works. Patriarchal power in William Shakespeare plays often compels female characters with certain limits. In Titus Andronicus, men surrounding Lavinia are usually in control. Issues of rape for Lavinia and Lucrece are more of symbolic representation for Imogen, which demonstrates masculine power and position.

Women's testimonies are powerful ways to find their voice and power to express their dissatisfaction and protest against the violence against them. This proves that women can not only draw their views from events such as rape and mutilation, which alter their perception of self. They can also use other means of proof. Through characters such as Lavinia and Lucrece, Shakespeare's interpretation of women using their voices to transform their lives. Like Ovid models, Shakespeare develops female victims by exemplifying them. He recognizes their efforts to survive in a male-dominated society, for example, Lavinia, it is designed a way that model Ovid narratives, however, Shakespeare uses an alternative process of metamorphosis. For instance, Lavinia needs to find means to transform from a tragic female character within the realm of reality. In this case, Shakespeare tries to delve further into modes of communication that are explored by Ovid in Titus Andronicus.

Lavinia and Philomela are transformed, making look unworthy as they are raped and mutilated. The two women are transformed in the case of Philomela. She changes into a bird to escape the brutality of Terus. For Lavinia, she suffers in silence as Shakespeare uses another model of communication to portray her struggles. Lavinia tries to find her new identity, where she gains more voice after being the wife of Bassianus. She can now speak to rely on his presence. However, she is also aware of her devolution to him as a husband. She is meant to be submissive to the patriarch's authority. She is seen to be kneeling to her father to show obedience. 'And at thy feet, I kneel with tears of joy I Shed on this earth for thy return to Rome'. Lavinia is still under masculine dominance when she accepts her position and feels content to be submissive to her husband. As quoted by Coppelia, Lavinia demonstrates 'her complete subjection as a model patriarchal daughter' by 'greeting her father by repeating his words of farewell to her brothers, offering 'tributary tears' for them, and kneeling at his feet, she asks for the blessing of his 'victorious hand''.

Masculine dominance is evident throughout the play. Titus tries to please Saturninus by requesting Lavinia, hand since all she is interested in is to maintain his position of power. Additionally, Titus quickly hands over Lavinia, treating her more like a tool of trade instead of protecting her like a daughter. Thus, ownership to Lavinia is transferred to Bassianus. At the same time, Demetrius and Chiron, Tamora's sons, reveal the masculine dominance in the play on Lavinia. Aaron convinces Chiron and Demetrius to harm Lavinia instead of wooing her. Similarly, Lucrece also suffers a similar fate: 'Take this of me: Lucrece was not more chaste I Than this Lavinia, Bassianus' love'.

Thus, Shakespeare connects the stories of the two women to reveal their vulnerability. Tereus, Chorn, and Demetrius exert their masculinity over Lavinia, showing their lustful desire for her. For example, Chorn states that 'Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy I That nice preserved honesty of yours'. This proves that they use their masculine dominance to subdue her, mainly when Demetrius and Chiron use physical forces and exploit their position of power over Lavinia.

After Lavinia becomes the victim of mutilation, she finds a way of expressing her emotion after the only means of communication has been taking away brutally. Lavinia is not able to speak; she loses the ability to communicate with others. Additionally, her hands verbally are cut off, which reveals their knowledge of Ovid's Metamorphoses. For example, the play states how Lavinia is mocked:

“DEMETRIUS: so, now tell, and if thy tongue can speak, Who 'twas that cut thy tongue and ravished thee. CHIRON: Write down their mind, bewray thy meaning so, And if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe”.

Testimonies are the critical component of healing in trauma theory and can be a useful tool to examine what the female rape victims undergo. Thus, helping women seek ways of communicating their violations. Shakespeare uses the story of Philomela to highlights how women use alternative ways to testify against their brutality. However, Lavinia cannot weave her story because she is voiceless. Demetrius and Chiron are aware that Lavinia cannot identify her attackers because she cannot speak, meaning that she cannot weave her story. Similarly, Philomela's use of weaving to identify Tereus, Demetrius, and Chiron as they believed that had eliminated any ways of being recognized by Lavinia is evident in their attitude when they mock her showing dominance over her. This further makes Lavinia look more venerable, just like Philomela is also associated with 'shuddering dove' after being destroyed.

Lavinia's helpless is meant to show her weakness, especially when she sought refuge by running from Marcus. Marcus, on the other hand, objectifies Lavinia by perceiving her from a feminine point of view; she is displayed as more of an object for men. However, Marcus also fails to find a communication suitable for Lavinia's present status. Her lack of voice is more likened to her loss of feminists, thus making it more of the rhetoric way of contact with people. Once Marcus realizes Lavinia had lost her tongue, he connects it with Ovid's story of Tereus and Philomela. As Marcus points out that Lavinia's attackers are 'craftier Tereus” since he removed Lavinias’s means of weaving her message as Philomela did. By the fact that Lavinia cannot devise a way of communicating to identify her attackers, she is reduced to something that has a mutilated image, not as someone with a copy of womanliness.

Even more significant, the men that surround her seem only able to recognize her outward physical wounds but not that she has been raped. As suggested by Kahn, the men around Lavinia can only recognize her outward suffering and wound but cannot know that she was raped. Lavinia's rape signifies that her mutilation, but not everyone can interpret this symbol unit. She writes 'stuprum' in the dust. Her external wounds only concerned everyone without knowing her internal suffering. Thus, Shakespeare's rape victims seek sympathy, actions, and reaction using their testimonies to seek for redress of unjust actions against them.

Masculine dominance is well demonstrated in the play. Whereby images are presented based on the viewer's perspective. All the women, that is, Lavina, Lucrece, and Imogen, have lost their voice in a male-dominated world. It is their powerful testimonies that help them regain the confidence they need to be feminists. Shakespeare offers the audience gender roles in each of these literary works to challenge the audience to consider the validity of these roles, whereby they were expected to be in a submissive position. 

16 August 2021
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