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MonkeyNotes-Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
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OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Major Characters

Titus Andronicus

He is a noble Roman warrior and the hero of the play. In keeping with the character of tragic heroes, he is a man intensely committed to his own code of ethics even to the point of stubbornness. His inflexible code of honor alienates him from those he loves. At the beginning of the play, it is said of him," A noble man, a braver warrior. Lives not this day within the city walls". His nobility and his bravery sets him apart from others, even from his own sons. He takes his virtues too far and they become oppressive: his slaying of Mutius in the first act is without compunction. His attitude reveals the anger of an egotist who will be denied nothing. Although there is much in him to admire, his character lacks a basic humanity and a willingness to admit that he is wrong. This is shown in his refusal to allow Mutius’ burial in the Andronici Tomb. He gives in finally, but he does without any grace, that is characteristic of his nobility.


The only person who arouses gentleness in him is his daughter Lavinia, whom he loves infinitely. Violence is an important part of his character. It is seen in the first Act: his indifference to Aavabus’ death and Tamora’s pleas and his lack of hesitation in killing his own son. As the play progresses, this violence becomes the most dominating part of his character. The onslaught of tragedies causes a psychic metamorphosis in Titus that makes him a barbaric and obsessed man. The violence, which had only been glimpsed before is now completely unleashed. Any trace of humanity that might have existed in him is totally wiped out by the darker passions, which seem to have taken complete control of him. He feeds Tamora a cannibalistic feast of her dead sons and feels not a whit of compunction. When he kills Lavinia, even Saturninus is forced to exclaim, "unnatural and unkind".

Nevertheless the figure of Titus is by no means painted all black by the playwright. Although references to Pragne and to the battle of Lapiths and the Centaurs show the horrifying effects of his fixation on revenge, he is not fully shown as bestial or degenerate. His violence is understandable, if not condonable, keeping in mind the brutality which he has suffered. The final comments on his character are all praise and pity and Marcus gives the care of defense, "Now judge what cause had Titus to revenge. These wrongs, unspeakable, past patience". Thus in the final analysis Titus’ virtues and vices have to be considered together. And they paint a picture of an imperfect man, as most men are, who has elements of both good and bad in him and must be judged keeping in mind the excruciating circumstances which color his final and most grisly actions.

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