The Ideas Of Revenge And Justice In Titus Andronicus

Shakespeare wrote many tragedies throughout his life. Titus Andronicus was one of his firsts and it was a play that involved a large amount of odd, bloody, and gory scenes. These kinds of scenes are very popular and often shown in revenge tragedies. Titus Andronicus is a play that has a plot is undoubtably driven completely through revenge. All of the characters in the play believe that after being wronged the best course of action is to use revenge as a solution. This thought process is what causes a domino effect of murders and brutal actions. To all of the characters in Titus Andronicus revenge is seen as a form of justice. But with this they actually end up with the opposite of justice. Justice is something that provides balance and gives closure when someone has been wronged. Revenge however usually causes more problems and is driven by emotion rather than logic which is why revenge will most likely lead to more revenge. This is seen throughout the whole play starting from the very beginning. Titus who is a military leader returning from war has the sons of Tamora killed. This is the first act that causes the need for revenge. From there is almost a back and forth of revenge being taken on different characters throughout the play. With all of this it becomes apparent that in Titus Andronicus the characters are ultimately choosing revenge over true justice.

Justice is something that creates a form of peace, but revenge is something meant to cause pain to someone for their wrongdoings whether it be physical or emotional. Throughout Titus Andronicus the people are constantly thinking of ways to cause physical harm to one another. They see the physical harm as a form of revenge. In the first scene you can see the first instance of this when Titus returns from battle with Tamora and her sons. Upon their return Titus says that Tamora’s oldest son must be sacrificed. Even though Tamora pleads for Titus to spare her son Titus follows through with the sacrifice and kills Alarbus. Thus, beginning the cycle of revenge that is seen throughout the play. After this Saturnininus finds out that he is the soon to be emperor. After this his fiancé Tamora begins plotting her revenge on Titus. During one of the scenes of the play she says “I’ll find a day to massacre them all, and raze their faction and their family, the cruel father and his traitorous sons to whom I sued for my dear sons life, and make them know what ‘tis to let a queen kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain”. From this you can gather that Tamora has full intentions to harm Titus and his family. Tamora is set on revenge, but she not only wants Titus to feel emotional damage but also physical damage. She is is in pain and sad about the death of her son. She sees causing pain to Titus as a the best course of action. This is where you can see that she does not truly want justice but instead she wants revenge.

Throughout the play you can see that the revenge taken on other characters is cause by pain and injury that is shown from the beginning. Later on in the play this can be seen once more. After being convinced by Aaron who is seen as one of the worst people in the play, Tamora’s sons Demetrius and Chiron decide to not only rape but mutilate Titus’s daughter Lavinia. They cut off her hands and cut out her tongue so she cannot tell anyone what happened or who did it. Lavinia is eventually able to tell them what happens when she shows them a story in a book. In the story a woman is raped and the rapist cut out the woman’s tongue so she is unable to tell anyone what happened. At this point Titus has cut off his own hand in an effort to save one of his kids. After this Tamora who was dressed as “Revenge” was convinced by Titus to let her two sons stay with him after she leaves. Titus then ties them upside down and gags them. He then has Lavinia come into the room with a basin to catch blood. Titus then begins to talk to the two and explains to them what is happening and why it is happening. Eventually what he is saying becomes quite gory. He begins by saying “This one hand yet is left to cut your throats, whiles thet Lavinia ‘tween her stumps doth hold the basin that receives your guilty blood”. By this it is made apparent to Demetrius and Chiron that Titus has true intentions of killing them without mercy. Here you can see that he is not only killing them in this way for what they have done to Lavinia but also as a way to cause them pain. He does not feel as if imprisonment and punishment is enough for them. Titus wishes to see them in pain and eventually dead. This is something that only revenge not justice can provide.

Justice is something that requires more logic and reasoning than revenge which relies mostly on emotion. But emotion can be something that takes over and ends up driving someone to do things that they would not normally do. Emotions are what drive people to seek revenge on others. This is seen throughout the entirety of Titus Andronicus. Titus and Tamora are the main examples of emotion being used as the primary justification for their actions. An example of this can be seen when Tamora decides to dress up as “Revenge” as a way to sneak into Titus’s study. After she enters Titus immediately recognizes who it is. Tamora then tries to convince him by saying “I am not Tamora. She is thy enemy and I thy friend. I am revenge, sent from th’infernal kingdom to ease the gnawing vulture of thy mind by working wreckful vengeance on thy foes”. After a while Tamora believes that she has convinced Titus that she is in fact “Revenge” and her two sons are “Rape” and “Murder”. Titus however is simply acting as if he believes her and reveals his true intentions to the crowd before Tamora exits while Titus says “I knew them all, though they supposed me mad, and will o’erreach them in their own devices a pair of cursed hell hounds and their dam.” With this it makes it apparent to the people seeing the play that Titus is fully aware that it is Tamora. It is shown that he is playing along so he can get the opportunity to get her two sons alone. It is clear in this scene that in Tamora’s attempts to get revenge on Titus she completely disregards her logic due to her emotions. She is so angry that she makes the decision to follow through with her plan that is not very logical. This choice is what ends up leading to the deaths of Demetrius and Chiron.

Throughout the play you can see that many of the characters find themselves being driven completely by emotions. For example, when Titus gets Demetrius and Chiron alone he immediately begins to think of a way to get revenge on both of them for the rape and mutilation of his daughter. But also, on their mother Tamora for killing two of his many sons who end up losing their lives throughout the play. Titus wishes to hurt Demetrius, Chiron, and Tamora at the same time. He begins to devise a plan that will satisfy his goals. He eventually shows his plans when he says “Hark villains, I will grind your bones to dust, and with your blood and it I will make a paste, and of that paste a coffin I will rear, and make two pasties of your shameful heads, and bid that strumpet, your unhallowed dam, like to the earth swallow her own increase. This is the feast that I have bid her to and this is the banquet that she shall surfeit on.” This is where Titus shows his exact plan to Demetrius and Chiron. He explains that he plans on grinding their bones and using their blood to make a paste. From there he plans on making them into pies that will be fed to their mother. You can see Titus acting purely on emotion here. No logical plan involves the act of baking two men into pies and serving them to their mother. He is so angry that he is acting on emotion and coming up with a brutal plan as a way of getting revenge on Tamora. Although this plan is ridiculous Titus follows through with it and reveals the heads of Tamora’s sons as she is eating them. This reveals that her sons are baked into the very pies she is eating. Upon revealing the heads Titus says “Why there they are, both baked in this pie, whereof their mother daintily hath fed, eating the flesh that she herself half bred. ‘Tis true, ‘tis true witness my knifes sharp point.” After this final line Titus proceeds to stab Tamora. He had previously killed his own daughter Lavinia as a form of mercy after she had been raped. Titus is then stabbed by her fiancé Saturninus. Throughout the play Titus faces so many cases of death and tragedy that by the end of the play he is completely blinded by his emotions and acts on impulse. This is what will eventually lead to his death in the play.

Titus and Tamora think similarly throughout the play when you look at both of their inability to understand others perspectives. After Titus ties up Demetrius and Chiron, he begins to give the two the details of how he is going to enact his revenge on them. After informing the two that he is planning on baking them into pies and feeding them to their mother, he reveals the true reason why he is seeking revenge on them by saying “For worse than Philomel used my daughter and worse than Progne I will be revenged.” After explaining how they have harmed his daughter Titus says two lines that show that he also wants revenge for himself. By taking a closer look at what he said you can see his true motives. When he is talking about what was done to his daughter he say “my daughter” instead of saying her name which would give her identity he relates her to a possession of his that the two damaged. He also says something that makes his reasoning blatantly obvious. By saying “I will be revenged” he is clearly showing that he is the one that needs to be avenged.

The ideas of revenge and justice are things that can be seen almost as interchangeable. But if one takes a closer look into the ideas and how each are achieved it can be seen that they may actually be the complete opposite. Most revenge ends with bad results and sometimes even more acts of revenge shown after. In Titus Andronicus one can see that revenge is what the characters are truly after. They perform acts that do not result in true justice and in the end cause more problems. After analyzing the play a bit closer one can see that the characters involved are searching for revenge rather than justice. 

16 August 2021
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