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To what extent do you consider Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus to be a moral play?

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Introduction

U5 English Coursework Ben Lovett 24.02.2003 To what extent do you consider Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus to be a moral play? Titus Andronicus is perhaps one of the most graphic, brutal, and sensational tragedies of the last millennium. However the question of whether this play presents itself as a moral play is far more disputed. I think for the twenty-first century reader it is far too blunt as an out of context piece of literature; too graphic and absurd to allow the reader to appreciate any moral issues being questioned. However I think as a sixteenth century stage production Titus Andronicus somehow manages to justify the carnage through the timing and the emotional change of the actors. This is how Shakespeare connected with his viewers, because he has the audience questioning whether they should feel death can be justified, especially with the swift killing of Lavinia by her father. These questions lead the members of the audience to begin questioning their own morality and even humanity. ...read more.

Middle

He then makes a questionable choice of Emperor in Saturninus, and agrees to Saturninus's demand to marry his daughter. When his son, Mutius gets in the way of his plans he kills him without hesitation. All of these actions contrast so strongly with the great man portrayed by Titus' brother, Marcus, in the opening lines, 'A nobler man, a braver warrior Lives not this day within the city walls' With no clear hero and Aaron as a equivocal villain, it is hard to find a clear moral centre to the play. It is a fantastic spectacle but many readers and viewers would leave it at that. The play begins with Titus returning from war, accompanied by a coffin, immediately relating him with death and from there on the list of violent scenes seems to be endless. Titus kills Tamora's eldest son, Alarbus, or 'sacrifices' him as he claimed it was traditional necessity and he had no control over the death. ...read more.

Conclusion

Therefore conveying a Christian message through the pagan religious system that the Romans followed. Although Lucius began the Revenge cycle by assuring Titus that he should kill Alarbus it is also easily forgotten that Lucius spares the life of Aaron's son and that the cycle of revenge ended when Tamora, Titus and the complex villain, Aaron, were killed. This could be seen as a positive ending. So in fact, Titus Andronicus is, in my opinion, deliberately brutal and graphic to teach us that revenge produces nothing but pain. However, if this fairly subtle moral is not realised because the play may in fact provoke excitement and interest in the bloodbath of the plot and people may not extract themselves from it and look at the play as opposed to immersing themselves in it then Shakespeare may have produced the opposite of what he intended: A montage of rape, revenge and murder to please the appetite of all the blood-thirsty instinctual humans amongst us. ...read more.

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